BANGKOK, July 16 (Reuters) - Australia put a dismal start to their first Asian Cup campaign behind them by thrashing co-hosts Thailand 4-0 to reach the quarter-finals on Monday.
Captain Mark Viduka scored two late goals in a ruthless
display by the Socceroos which set up a mouth-watering
last-eight clash with Japan.
Michael Beauchamp opened the scoring from a set-piece in
the 20th minute before captain Viduka sealed victory with goals
in the 79th and 83rd minutes.
Harry Kewell completed the rout with a goal in the last
minute of normal time, confirming the one-time tournament
favourites' return to form.
The two teams finished Group A level on four points in
second place but Australia went through as runners-up based on
their head to head result.
Iraq finished top of the group standings after playing out
a scoreless draw with Oman. Iraq play Vietnam in the
The Socceroos were in danger of an embarrassing early exit
from the tournament after drawing 1-1 with Oman and losing 3-1
to Iraq but found their form in the nick of time at a packed
After struggling to cope with the heat and humidity in
their previous games, the Australians could not have asked for
better conditions with the match played at night in steady
Coach Graham Arnold reacted to his team's loss against Iraq
by making four changes to his starting lineup and his
selections were vindicated when Beauchamp headed a
perfectly-weighted free kick from Luke Wilkshire past Thailand
goalkeeper Kosin Hathairatanakool.
Australia's superior height gave them a distinct advantage
in the air but they struggled to maintain possession long
enough to create many opportunities.
Thailand had more chances but poor finishing and desperate
Australian defence kept them scoreless even after the
introduction of playmaker Datsakorn Thonglao, who was married
on Sunday and started on the bench.
Sutee Suksomkit almost scored in the seventh minute when he
curled a cross from the left that beat Australian keeper Mark
Schwarzer but floated past the far post.
Substitute Pipat Thonkanya had a great chance to equalise
midway through the second half when he shot from inside the box
straight at Schwarzer and Suchao Nutnum unleashed a powerful
long range drive that went just wide.
After soaking up the pressure for almost an hour, Australia
caught Thailand on the counter-attack with Newcastle striker
Viduka completing a quickfire double before Liverpool's Kewell
scored a fine solo goal to add gloss to an impressive win.