The Road To Qatar...
Here's a quick look at the ups and downs that saw the Qantas Socceroos qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar
How they made it…
The Qantas Socceroos eventually qualified top of their group after an A-League based squad easily defeated Indonesia in Brisbane. They did leave it until the last game to qualify though and this is how they did it…
28th January 2009: Indonesia 0-0 Australia In January last year, the Qantas Socceroos kicked off its campaign with a fighting 0-0 draw against Indonesia in Jakarta.
In what was a fairly scrappy game, void of real clear cut chances, a new look line-up would-ve been happy with their performance which saw them take something away from what must be seen as a tough trip.
No less than nine players made their international debut on a humid, heavy night and despite dominating possession, the side never really got going and the result was a fair one at the end of the 90 minutes.
(In between the two fixtures, Australia did have a small matter of facing Japan in a FIFA World Cup qualification, where of course the 0-0 draw was enough to see them through to the finals in South Africa)
5th March 2009: Australia 0-1 Kuwait An energetic Kuwait side continued Australia-s poor start to qualification when it inflicted a surprise defeat on the Qantas Socceroos in the capital. A first half header from Mesaed Alenza proved the difference between the two sides in Canberra.
Despite having several chances, a well organised and enthusiastic Kuwait side silenced a record crowd of over 20,000 in the capital to leave Australia bottom of the group after two games.
Coach Pim Verbeek was left with a lot to think about if his side was going to make it to Qatar in 2011.
14th October 2009: Australia 1-0 Oman
The Qantas Socceroos qualifying campaign finally got up and running in Melbourne when the ever reliable Everton star Tim Cahill scored his 19th international goal in 36 games.
Despite winning at the Etihad stadium and putting them into the qualification spots, Oman did have chances throughout the game and the 20,000 strong crowd were left biting their nails all the way until the final whistle.
14th November 2009: Oman 1-2 Australia Just over a month since their last meeting, Australia produced what can best be described as an outstanding rear-guard action to defeat Oman in Muscat, despite playing for over 70 minutes with 10-men.
The win put the Qantas Socceroos on top of the table and the box seat in terms of qualification. Oman came out fighting though and they took the lead after just 18 minutes when Rhys Williams was red-carded after he fouled Fawzi Basheer in the box.
The resulting penalty was saved by Schwarzer but the rebound was put away by Ayli to leave the visitors stunned.
The Qantas Socceroos never gave up though and their hard work was rewarded just before half time when Luke Wilkshire opened his international scoring account.
It was backs against the wall and tough defending for much of the remainder of the game but in the 82nd minute, Australia made Oman pay for missed chances when David Carney delivered a perfect cross to Brett Emerton who finished clinically to give the Qantas Socceroos the three points.
6th January 2010: Kuwait 2-2 Australia Australia took another step towards qualification for the 2011 Asian Cup but Pim Verbeek would-ve been disappointed that his men didn-t book their ticket after they let a two goal lead slip.
Australia had led 2-0 within five minutes after capitalising on some poor defending from the home side.
Luke Wilkshire latched onto a rebounding ball to double his international tally after three minutes and Dean Heffernan scored his first goal for the Qantas Socceroos when Kuwait failed to deal with a free kick.
But the Kuwait side was far from beaten and it showed the same character it displayed in Canberra 10 months earlier. In the 39th minute, Hamad Al Enezi finished well after a defensive mistake, while five minutes later Younes Nasser scored the crucial equalizer.
Kuwait had the better chances in the second half but neither side could find a winner. The result did put the Socceroos in the best position for qualification as the Oman and Kuwait faced each other to see who would be progressing to the finals.
Australia therefore only needed a draw from the final match in Brisbane.
8th March 2010: Australia 1-0 Indonesia The 1-0 result flattered the visitors somewhat as the Australian team had the lion-s share of the possession and the attack throughout both halves but manager Pim Verbeek would-ve been happy with his A-League based squad.
Mark Milligan bagged his first international goal and despite plenty of possession and chances that was enough to see Australia qualify for the tournament in Qatar.
Aside from the obvious plus in qualifying was the debut performance of Tommy Oar who ran the Indonesia defence ragged with his performance on the wing.
His pace and lethal left foot were more often than not the source of Australia-s danger and he-ll definitely be one to watch for the future.
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