Australia on verge of World Cup qualification

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The Independent Football

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 today.

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 on the brink of becoming the first country to join the host nation at the 2010 World Cup.

Yet to concede a single goal after five matches in the fourth round of Asian qualifiers, Australia could seal their spot if Bahrain and Qatar draw their Group One match in Manama later today. If not, Australia would need to collect just one more point from their remaining three matches in June to secure their place at the finals.

"There was a lot of pressure on today's game because we knew we had to win the game," Australia captain Lucas Neill said in a televised interview.

"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 playoff.