Socceroos off to Rio
19 June 2013
FOOTBALL: Holger Osieck can reflect with pride after his brave substitution of national hero Tim Cahill with the game in the balance swung it - and World Cup qualification - for the Socceroos.
Cahill's replacement Josh Kennedy netted the 83rd minute winner at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday night which saw off plucky Iraq to book Australia a place at a third successive World Cup finals.
Cahill was clearly unhappy at the substitution, exchanging words with Osieck on the sideline as he walked off and slapping the air as he approached the bench.
And Australia held its breath as a man whose vital goals usually save the Socceroos took a seat as a night which promised so much was threatening to deliver so little.
But in victory as he was on the sideline, Osieck was unfazed by whether he'd turned the game with his brave move.
"You have to understand that no player ever wants to be taken off but it's my discretion as a coach to make substitutions," he said.
"You could see that after the game (Cahill) was one of the happiest people, climbing on my shoulders.
"When you have 10 people you have 10 different opinions. When you have 100 people you have 100 opinions. So why should I care?
"I know what I'm doing. I'm close to the players and I'm close to the situation."
Kennedy, in his first Socceroos appearance for 19 months after recovering from a serious back problem, rated the strike the most important of his career.
"I really don't know what to say - it's amazing," Kennedy said.
"It's been a long road to get back where I am now and this is the icing on the cake."
Captain Lucas Neill admitted the performance wasn't great, but it was a case of mission accomplished.
"I'm proud of everybody. It's been a really tough campaign. We've stuck at it, showed mental strength," Neill said.
"Sorry, it wasn't pretty. But we've beaten what was in front of us and pushed ourselves on to a very exciting tournament."
The result secured Australia second place in Asia's Group B behind winners Japan, with the top two teams qualifying for Brazil.
Jordan beat Oman 1-0 in Amman on Wednesday morning to secure third place in the group, and a playoff against Uzbekistan - third in Group A - in a second-chance attempt to grab a World Cup place.
Uzbekistan's 5-1 win over Qatar was not enough to secure automatic qualification in that group, forcing them to a playoff in which the winners take on South America's fifth-placed side.
Instead Iran and South Korea progressed to Brazil as the top two teams from Group A.
Iran claimed top spot by beating the Koreans 1-0 in Ulsan.