Australia withstood late pressure from Japan to hold on for a 0-0 draw which kept them top of their World Cup qualifying group on Wednesday.
"It's a great result," Australia midfielder Tim Cahill told
Reuters. "They've had five weeks preparing, we've had two days.
We will take that result - and I'm sure they will too."
Australia lead Group One in the final round of Asian 2010
World Cup qualifying with 10 points from four games, two ahead
of second-placed Japan.
"You've got to look at the table," said Cahill. "We're six
points clear of the team in third (Bahrain). We're sitting
pretty and so are Japan."
Japan produced the better chances in front of 65,000 fans in
Yokohama, playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura shaving the bar with a
free kick in the 25th minute.
Australia had a legitimate shout for a penalty waved away
moments before halftime when Japan defender Tulio looked to have
handled the ball but the Socceroos rarely threatened.
Substitute Yoshito Okubo forced a low save from Mark
Schwarzer in the 68th minute before the big Australia goalkeeper
brilliantly kept out a venomous drive from Yasuhito Endo.
Keiji Tamada then almost diverted a Makoto Hasebe volley
inside the post as Japan poured forward in the dying minutes but
the Australians hung on for a valuable point.
"It's frustrating not to take three points at home," said
Japan coach Takeshi Okada, who had admitted in the build-up to
the game that defeat would have cost him his job.
"We did everything but put the ball in the net. But it's
about qualifying for the World Cup. We have four games left and
have to keep pushing."
The teams have become fierce rivals since Australia beat
Japan 3-1 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Japan gained revenge
by knocking Australia out of the Asian Cup the following year.
"We've not made it to the World Cup yet," said Nakamura.
"We've got four games left and nobody's thinking it's a done
Australia coach Pim Verbeek was satisfied with a point.
"I can only compliment my players," said the Dutchman. "We
had more of less no preparation and Japan were very dangerous so
I'm very pleased with the result."
The top two from each of the two five-team groups will
qualify from Asia for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.