Australia remain unbeaten after draw with Japan

The Socceroos took another giant step towards a berth at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa, picking up a valuable point against Japan at the Yokohama International Stadium.

The Socceroos took another giant step towards a berth at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa, picking up a valuable point against Japan at the Yokohama International Stadium.

The point maintains Australia unbeaten run in Group A of the fourth round of qualifiers and with three of their final four matches at home, the Socceroos must be confident of reaching its second successive World Cup finals.

It wasn-t pretty as expected, with Japan, backed by a capacity crowd of 70,000, dominating play for the most part, but time and again they were turned away by a magnificent Australian defence.

Australian coach Pim Verbeek was obviously delighted with the performance; especially given they had little to no preparation prior to the game.

“Fantastic performance,” he said after the game. “I think 0-0 in Japan is really a great result.”

“I think they had one real chance and that was the header, but for the rest it looks dangerous, but not very dangerous.

“It-s reality that we had little preparation, but you could see how professional the players are. They are all very tired, but they stayed concentrated and I think they need to be complemented.”

Verbeek was also not going to concede that Australia already had one foot in the door for South Africa.

“No, we still have to wait,” he said. “We have a big game coming up now at ANZ (Stadium) in Sydney against Uzbekistan, but every game is a big game now and it depends on the result now in the Uzbekistan and Bahrain match being played tonight as to whether three points will be good enough in Sydney.”

The result saw Australia jump to 10 points, while Japan remains two points behind, with Qatar on four points and Uzbekistan and Bahrain on one point (prior to the result of their match being played later tonight).

Australia started as expected with Vince Grella and Scott Chipperfield taking their place in the team and Tim Cahill starting as a striker.

The first half as expected saw Japan dominate possession, although chances were fairly rare.

Keiji Tamada had the first chance in the 5th minute, his flick at the near post going into the side-netting, although Mark Schwarzer looked to have it covered.

The most threatening Japan got was the 3-4 occasions that set piece specialist Shunsuke Nakamura was over the ball at free kicks around the Australian penalty area. However, apart from one cross that took a deflection and made Mark Schwarzer sweat a little, before he took it comfortably, the goal was never really threatened.

Australia-s one and only decent chance came right on half time, when Cahill finally got a metre of space and his shot from 25 metres was hit with tremendous power, but straight at Japanese keeper Ryota Tsuzuki.

Japan upped the ante in the second half and pushed forward with more urgency, but time and again they ran into a solid brick wall with Lucas Neill and Craig Moore superb in the middle.

Schwarzer, who became the third oldest player for the Socceroos with his appearance tonight, made his first save in the 68th minute, comfortably controlling a shot by substitute Yoshito Okubo.

Japan was now flying and two minutes later Schwarzer made his most telling save, pushing a Yasuhito Endo thunderbolt over the bar.

Tamada should have done better with a header in the 79th minute, but it flew well over the crossbar, while a Hasebe shot that hit Okubo went just wide of the near post, much to the Australians relief.

Josh Kennedy was injected into the match late on and was almost on the end of terrific cross from Jason Culina, but Tulio did enough to deny the tall striker.

Japan tried for a last winner, but Australia-s rearguard held firm to get the point they wanted.

The 0-0 scoreline also meant Schwarzer became the holder of the most clean sheets (25) by a Socceroos keeper, moving ahead of long-time rival Zeljko Kalac.

Match Details

Japan 0 Australia 0

Australian line-up: Mark Schwarzer (gk); Lucas Neill, Craig Moore, Tim Cahill (Josh Kennedy 85-), Jason Culina, Luke Wilkshire, Scott Chipperfield, Vince Grella, Brett Holman (Richard Garcia 64-), Carl Valeri, Mark Bresciano (David Carney 92-) Subs not used: Jade North, Mile Jedinak, Scott McDonald, Michael Petkovic (gk)

Cautions: Chipperfield (22-), Wilkshire (26-), Valeri (91-)

Japan line-up: Ryota Tsuzuki (gk); Yuji Nakazawa, Tulio Tanaka, Atsuto Uchida, Yasuhito Endo, Daisuke Matsui (Yoshito Okubo 58-), Tatsuya Tanaka (Shinji Okazaki 83-), Shunsuke Nakamura, Keiji Tamada, Yuto Nagatomo, Makoto Hasebe