The Socceroos last travelled to Perth in 2016 looking to continue their pursuit of a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and took a strong step along the Road to Russia by clinching a tough 2-0 win over Iraq at HBF Park.
Almost 19,000 fans filled the stands to watch the tightly contested contest unfold; a superb second half display from the Socceroos was needed to overcome the gallant visitors and it was Tomi Juric who ultimately made the difference, assisting the first goal and scoring the sealer to give the Socceroos a perfect start to their third round of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
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Socceroos lineup: Mathew Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Brad Smith, Milos Degenek, Mark Milligan, Mile Jedinak, Mathew Leckie, Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo, Tomi Rogic, Tomi Juric.
Bench: Robbie Kruse, Jackson Irvine, Apostolos Giannou, Ryan McGowan, Mitch Langerak (GK), Adam Federici (GK), Nathan Burns, Matthew Spiranovic, Josh Risdon, Alex Gersbach, Tim Cahill, Chris Ikonomidis.
The first ten minutes of the game told the story of what was to come as Australia leapt out of the blocks before Iraq pegged them back and began to assert themselves on the contest, which was to become a tug-of-war of sorts.
The Socceroos had 80% of posession after 20 minutes but Iraq continued to threaten in spurts, and when Brad Smith brought Ali Husni down in the box he was lucky to escape without conceding a penalty, and the hosts had their first genuine scare of the evening.
Iraq pushed hard until half time but couldn’t break the deadlock; Australia reset at half time and came out fighting in the second stanza as they battled to keep the visitors at bay.
But as valiantly as Iraq had fought all night, it took just six minutes to pick them apart.
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The Socceroos were camped outside Iraq’s box just before the hour mark when they finally scored the opener, after Juric slid a perfect cross to the back post where Luongo was on hand to sweep the ball into the back of the net.
Iraq were still reeling from falling behind when Juric pounced to score the all-important second goal, poking home a venomous Aaron Mooy corner which Mark Milligan had guided directly into his path at the near post.
It was a difficult contest from start to finish decided by a crucial six-minute spell in the second half in which the Socceroos rose to the occasion, took their chances and claimed the first three points of what proved to be a successful voyage to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
It's been more than three years since that day in September, 2016, but the Socceroos are now preparing to descend on Perth once more with a similar goal in mind; to take three points on the road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar when they host Kuwait on March 26.
With four wins from four in their current World Cup qualifying campaign, a win over Kuwait next month will ensure the Socceroos keep their unblemished record as they look to claim their spot in Qatar.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 second round qualifying
Australia v Kuwait
Thursday, 26 March 2020
Venue: HBF Park, Perth
Kick-off: 6.00pm local, 9.00pm AEDT
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