Australia find their form - just in time

Posted by Quinn Jones

Australia celebrate during their crucial win over JordanGettyImagesAustralia celebrate during their crucial win over Jordan

Two games. Four points. And just like that, Australia's equation for World Cup qualification is back from the brink of disaster.

Just a week after their escape from Japan, where a valuable point was secured despite victory being thrown away in the final moments, Australia returned home to banish the memory of their last great shame – the alarming 2-2 draw against Oman. The Socceroos returned home.

But unlike that smouldering wreckage in Sydney, where Australia clawed exhaustingly back from two goals down to barely mask a loss with a point, the Socceroos finally stamped their authority on Group B of Asia's route to Brazil by putting Jordan to the sword in a 4-0 win in Melbourne.

It was everything frustrated Australian fans had been waiting for in a campaign that has been less than impressive. Australia, led by German coach Holger Osieck, headed home from Japan with a record that spoke volumes of their recent woes – a victory, a defeat and draw, after draw, after draw, after draw.

But with Japan already qualified, thanks to that dramatic equaliser in Saitama last week, there was little room for error against Jordan. Heading into the penultimate round, Oman led the Socceroos by two points with Australia and their guests separated only by goal difference.

Knowing anything less than two victories from the two final games would leave them out of the reckoning for automatic qualification, and in serious trouble of being left with the second-chance saloon of third spot, Australia began brightly, their two young wingers, Tommy Oar and Robbie Kruse, buzzing round the veteran midfield maestro, Mark Bresciano.

"We had to come out here and we had to play," Socceroos midfielder Mark Milligan said. "We worked extremely hard this week."

And it was Kruse and Bresciano that would release the early tension with the first-half's only goal. The referee played an intelligent advantage which allowed Kruse to break into the box and square for Bresciano to sweep the ball home.

But despite the attacking threat, the rest of the first 45 minutes was a series of near misses, and as the half drew to a close, the anxiety and horror of Jordan snatching a draw, or should Australia fear, a victory, followed the Socceroos off the pitch.

Australia celebrate Mark Bresciano's goal
GettyImagesAustralia celebrate Mark Bresciano's goal

And that fear followed them back for the second-half, Australia's retreating defence allowing the visitors more than a sight at goal. But Osieck, sensing the danger, switched the tiring Oar for another veteran, Archie Thompson.

The German has come under fire this campaign for staying true to the nation's statesmen and not blooding the bold, but rough, younger generation. But with Jordan digging their foot into the match, the introduction of Thompson sparked the ageing brigade into life.

Just minutes after the Melbourne Victory man entered the fray, Bresciano found Kruse who, once again, played the perfect ball for Australia's first World Cup finals goalscorer, Tim Cahill, who, like so often in his career, evaded his marker to power home a trademark header.

"I want to embrace this," Cahill said. "I've been here plenty of times before. We felt like something special could happen tonight."

The game was now out of the Jordan's reach. Overrun by the swarming Australian attack, it was only a matter of time before the home side grabbed the third, and fittingly, it was Kruse who obliged. The Bayer Leverkusen-bound striker slammed home after a delightful spin and nutmeg inside the box.

"I think [the result has] been coming, there has been a few blips on the road... but we showed some wonderful football tonight," Kruse said.

But that was not the end of the entertainment, because after 91 games, Australian captain Lucas Neill finally scored his maiden international goal. The former West Ham and Blackburn defender rose high following young gun Tom Rogic's well-fought flick. It wasn't the goal that won the game, but it will be the goal that sends the squad in high spirits to Sydney and the final showdown with Iraq.

"We talked about getting off to a good start... [and] we could have been better in possession," Neill said. "I hope it's a sign of things to come. We know exactly what to do, we know the reward. The boys will be pumped."

And with all four teams battling for the valuable second-spot playing one another in the final round, this result could be the defining moment in Australia's bid to reach a third straight World Cup finals.

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