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Aussies jump to 2nd place
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 10 - 2012

DOHA — Two late headers helped Australia overcome a stubborn Iraq 2-1 Tuesday to kick-start its stuttering World Cup qualifying campaign.
The Socceroos moved into second place in Asian Zone Group B following their first win of the pool after Tim Cahill and substitute Archie Thompson scored in the final 10 minutes of their clash.
Australia had dominated possession and wasted some good chances in the match before falling behind to its defensive-minded opponents in the 72nd minute.
After the Socceroos squandered possession, a hopeful long punt from Iraq was skilfully flicked down by captain Younus Mahmood into the path of Alaa Abdul Zahra, who slotted the ball into the corner of Mark Schwarzer's goal.
Facing the prospect of a fourth qualifier without a win, Australia was spurred into action and Cahill connected with Matt McKay's outswinging corner in the 80th minute to score with a trademark header.
The visitors pressed for the winner and substitute Tommy Oar was allowed space and time to deliver a cross which Thompson, who flicked into the corner of the net in the 84th minute.
The defeat left 2007 Asian champion Iraq, forced to play home matches in Qatar because of security issues at home, bottom of the group on two points.
Japan (10 points) and Australia (five) hold the two automatic qualifying berths for Brazil ahead of Oman (five), who beat Jordan (four) earlier Tuesday.
Jordan, which upset Australia in its previous World Cup qualifier, suffered a 2-1 loss. Jordan thought it had rescued a point after it had the ball in the net in stoppage time but its late effort was ruled offside.
Ahmed Mubarek had put Oman ahead in the 62nd minute before Jumaa Darwish took advantage of the Jordanian defense missing a cross to fire home and double the lead in the 87th minute.
Jordan fought back and Thaer Bawab halved the deficit by scoring from 10 metres in the 90th minute but Oman hung on for a key victory.
In another match, Uzbekistan jumped into contention for a first World Cup Finals appearance by overcoming scorching temperatures to beat Qatar 1-0 away Tuesday.
The Uzbeks had started the match in Doha bottom of the five-team Group A but their first victory puts them back in the picture to claim one of the pool's two automatic World Cup places for Brazil 2014. The Uzbeks moved to five points, one point ahead of Qatar and Lebanon. Iran, also on four, host leaders South Korea (seven points) later.
Forward Sanjar Tursunov was the match-winner with a 13th minute goal. The diminutive Russia-based 25-year-old fired in a sharp volley from close to the penalty spot after turning well to meet Akmal Shorakhmedov's cross.
The few chances created can be blamed on the 34 Celsius temperatures in Doha with the match kicking-off at 1525 local time.
Chinese referee Tan Hai sensibly stopped the game in the 26th minute to allow the players to get some water, a move he repeated in the 73rd and will surely be required when Qatar host the World Cup in 10 years' time. — Agencies


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