Australia maintained their unbeaten record in the final round of Asian World Cup qualifiers
with a 2-0 win over Bahrain at the Olympic stadium on Wednesday.
Midfielder Mile Sterjovski broke the deadlock when he scored
in the 55th minute and left back David Carney sealed the Group
One win with a goal in the 88th.
Australia fielded a mostly second-string team having already
secured their place at next year's World Cup in South Africa
when they held Qatar to a goalless draw in Doha at the weekend.
Bahrain are still in the hunt to reach their first World Cup
but need a point from their last match against Uzbekistan next
week to be absolutely sure of making the playoffs.
Australia lead Group One with 17 points from seven matches
ahead of Japan, who have also qualified for the finals, on 15.
Bahrain are third with seven points ahead of Qatar, who have
finished their matches, on six and Uzbekistan with four.
After a slow start Australia took control of the match
against Bahrain in the second half despite squandering a series
of chances to win by a bigger margin.
"I think we created enough chances to score more than two
goals," Australia coach Pim Verbeek said in a televised
interview. "We were probably not really sharp enough to finish
"A lot of new players came into the team but if you win the
game 2-0 I think you've done everything you have to do."
Despite making seven changes to the starting lineup, the
Australians extended their impressive record of not conceding a
goal in any of their seven games so far in the last stage of
They play Japan, who have also qualified for South Africa,
in their last group match in Melbourne next week.
Australia struggled in the first half, with striker Scott
McDonald missing a golden chance to score, but they took control
after the break.
Sterjovski pounced on a defensive error to score then Carney
reacted quickly to poke home a rebound after a bicycle kick by
Jason Culina hit the post.
Australia were unlucky not to score a third with Harry
Kewell also hitting the woodwork.
That prompted goalkeeper and stand-in captain Mark Schwarzer
to launched a spirited defence of the team's tactics after they
were criticised during the qualifiers for not scoring enough.
"I'm extremely proud (of) the way the whole team and
management have gone about their job the whole campaign, they've
been extremely professional," Schwarzer said.
"I think if we can push on again against Japan and keep
another clean sheet, we can't do any better than that.
"It's very hard to understand how difficult the conditions
(in Asia) are at times. You need to go away and just get the job
done, sometimes it's not pretty."