Australia close to World Cup qualification

Australia were on the brink of booking their place at next year's World Cup finals in South Africa after beating Uzbekistan 2-0 at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney yesterday. Substitute Josh Kennedy broke the deadlock after 66 minutes with a header before forward Harry Kewell sealed the win in the 73rd with a penalty.

Australia, who ended a 32-year drought by qualifying as the last team for the 2006 World Cup, were suddenly very close to becoming the first country to join the host nation at the 2010 World Cup.

Yet to concede a single goal after five Asian qualifying matches, Australia were waiting for the result of Bahrain against Qatar in Manama yesterday – a draw would send them to the finals. Even without that, Australia would need to collect just one more point from their remaining three matches in June.

"There was a lot of pressure on today's game because we knew we had to win the game," the Australia captain Lucas Neill said. "It was there for us to win but we've sent a statement out to the rest of the group now, and possibly the world, that we might be the first team to qualify for the World Cup."

Both teams squandered chances to find the net in a scoreless first half but the Australians began to assert their control after the break with Uzbekistan starting to show signs of fatigue.

Kennedy opened the scoring midway through the second half when he connected with a perfectly timed cross from Mark Bresciano then Kewell put the result beyond doubt when he converted from the spot after a clumsy challenge by Hayrulla Karimov on Richard Garcia.

Uzbekistan looked to have grabbed a consolation goal in stoppage time when Anvarjon Soliev found the back of the net only to have the goal disallowed for offside. Uzbekistan, who have four points from six matches, still have a chance of finishing third in the group to reach a play-off.

Also yesterday, South Korea beat North Korea 1-0 with a late goal in a World Cup qualifier clouded by Pyongyang's plans to launch a rocket that Seoul says is a disguised long-range missile test.

With the win South Korea leap-frogged North Korea to take top spot in Asia's Group Two. North Korea are trying for their first World Cup finals since their memorable run to the last eight in 1966.

South Korea's goal came in the 87th minute when a left-footed free-kick from the substitute Kim Chi-woo slid off the hand of the North Korean goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk into the net. South Korea dominated play but failed to break through despite numerous chances including two close-range shots from Lee Keun-ho.

Prior to the game, South Korea's coach said he would like to see both Koreas, still technically at war, advance for the first time together to the World Cup finals.

The South Korean fans stood for the anthem of North Korea prior to the start of the game at Seoul's World Cup Stadium and politely cheered the opposing side.

Tensions on the divided peninsula have been raised by North Korea's plans to launch the rocket from 4 to 8 April and threats from Pyongyang that any interference from South Korea or its allies would be seen as a declaration of war.

South Korea, the United States and Japan have said the launch is a disguised test of the North's long-range Taepodong-2 missile that violates UN resolutions put in place after North Korea last fired the missile in July 2006 and conducted its first and only nuclear test a few months later.

North Korea said it was launching a satellite and had the right to do so as part of a peaceful space programme.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones