Qantas Socceroos into final stage

The Qantas Socceroos booked their place in the final round of AFC 2014 World Cup qualifying with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Thailand on Tuesday night.

The Qantas Socceroos booked their place in the final round of AFC 2014 World Cup qualifying with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Thailand on Tuesday night.

Hosts Thailand dominated possession but failed to find a breakthrough at the Supachalasai Stadium, and Brett Holman's 78th-minute header proved enough for the Socceroos to take all three points.

Despite a surprise 1-0 defeat to Oman on Saturday, Australia only needed one point to seal top spot in Group D of third-round qualifying in the Asian Football Confederation.

After being outclassed in the first half, Holger Osieck's men attempted to assert themselves in the second 45 minutes.

While gaining a greater share of the ball, they were restricted to fleeting sights of goal, with Matthew Spiranovic and Josh Kennedy both heading wide from set pieces early in the half.

Before Holman's winner, the biggest flashpoint of the second half took place in the technical area.

Osieck was the man in the spotlight, furiously berating his players for failing to play on, as several Thailand players hit the deck in an apparent bid to run down the clock.

Theatrics aside, the hosts appeared set to earn a point through a disciplined performance, before a counter-attack started and finished by Holman undid their hard work.

Picking up possession just inside the opposition half, the AZ Alkmaar forward spread the ball wide to Brett Emerton. Holman then arrived in the box to meet Emerton's cross, heading low beyond Kosin Hathairattanakool in the Thailand goal.

The hosts had few opportunities to undo the damage in the 12 minutes remaining.

Under pressure from Lucas Neil, Chonratit Jantakam's header flashed wide of goal from close range. And Jakkaphun Kaewprom's shot fell harmlessly on the roof of the net in the final seconds.

Earlier, Australia had enjoyed the first sight of goal in the match, when Kennedy headed Michael Zullo's cross directly at Hathairattanakool two minutes in.

But despite that promising start, it was Thailand who went on to dictate terms. Recalled after starting the match against Oman among the substitutes, Zullo was targeted at left-back and the converted winger was often under pressure.

Suree Sukha, who failed to make an appearance during his one season with Manchester City, was a constant threat, and wasted the best chance of the half on 34 minutes.

Played in behind a static Australia defence, Sukha found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer but could only blaze over from a tight angle.

It was not the first warning shot across the Socceroos' bow; Kirati Keawsombut had also gone close, firing over a first-time strike from Sukha's cross in the 16th minute.

At the other end, Kennedy did find the target a second time in the half, stooping to head an Emerton delivery goalwards. Hathairattanakool's save was routine, and reflective of Thailand's comfort throughout the first 45 minutes.

But for all their endeavours, to the victors go the spoils. Thailand were left to rue their inability to capitalise on a hard-working display, while Australia move on to the final group stage, with a third consecutive World Cup finals in their sights.

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