Australia needs 2 2nd-half goals to beat Thais 2-1
Striker Alex Brosque scored in the 86th minute to give Australia a 2-1 win over Thailand and help avoid an embarrassing start for the Socceroos in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Brosque scored the winner with a left-footed tap-in, completing the hosts' comeback from a first-half deficit.
Striker Teerasil Dengda had given Thailand a shock 1-0 lead in the 15th minute on a perfectly executed 70-meter counter-attack despite Australia dominating possession. Josh Kennedy equalized for Australia in the 58th.
Entering at the third round of Asian qualifying because it is among the five teams from the region to qualify for the previous World Cup, 22nd-rated Australia wore out the pitch in front of the 120th-ranked Thai team's goal for much of the match before 24,500 at Suncorp Stadium.
With 20 minutes left, Australia had dominated possession by a 78-22 percent margin in the second half.
However Thailand took the lead when Neil Kilkenny, a surprising selection in the midfield ahead of Mile Jedinak, turned the ball over with a poor pass and the Socceroos were exposed for a lack of urgency when Jakkraphan Kaewprom produced a strong cross on the run for Theerasil to volley home.
Australia had plenty of chances to equalize but its finishing wasn't up to the task in the opening 45 minutes.
Everton star Tim Cahill went closest in the last minute before halftime after attacking partner Kennedy brought the ball down to him in the box, but goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool saved it with a lunge to the right.
Australia captain Lucas Neill said it was a disappointing performance.
''They made it hard for us, but you can't find yourself down against any team,'' said Neill, who recently signed with United Arab Emirates champions Al Jazira. ''We know how hard this is going to be.''
Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who plays for English Premier League side Fulham, spoke harshly to his teammates after the first half.
''It feels like a loss, but the positive is we got the three points,'' said Schwarzer. ''There's no excuses. We were all over the place and we didn't have any real shape.''
Socceroos coach Holger Osieck said he wasn't surprised by the close match.
''Everybody expects easy wins against Thailand, but that's not the case,'' said the German-born Osieck. ''Thailand defended well and our boys didn't play the football they should have, particularly in the first half. We made that mistake at midfield, and got caught on the counter. But eventually we got the opportunities and gained confidence.''
A report on the Football Federation Australia website indicated the home side may have been overconfident going into the game.
In a preview on the match, it said ''Australia's journey to a third consecutive FIFA World Cup begins ... with what looks a relatively straightforward assignment against Thailand.''
However, citing Thailand's rejuvenation under new German-born coach Winfried Schaeffer, it added: ''No match in Asia is straightforward and no opposition can be underestimated.''
Schaeffer agreed on the straightforward part, saying his team, missing its regular captain, goalkeeper and three defenders due to injuries, played well on Friday, giving him hope for better things in Thailand's next match against Oman.
''We lost the match in the last five minutes because of a couple of errors,'' said Schaeffer. ''But I am happy with how we played. Australia is one of the strongest teams in the region, and we did well.''
Australia plays its next match next Tuesday against Saudi Arabia in Dammam.
The other teams in Group D, Oman and Saudi Arabia, played later Friday.