SYDNEY, June 22 (Reuters) - China ended their failed World Cup qualifying campaign on a high with a 1-0 victory over a below-strength Australia on Sunday.
Defender Sun Xiang scored a superb goal in the 12th minute
to provide the Chinese with their first win in Group A and hand
the Australians their first home defeat in a World Cup qualifier
for 27 years.
The result had no bearing on the qualifying as Australia,
fielding a mostly second-string team, had already secured their
place in the next stage while China were out of contention.
Australia's Dutch coach Pim Verbeek opted to rest most of
his European-based players and give some of the country's
younger players the chance to push their claims for selection
when the final stage of qualifying starts in September.
'It's disappointing to lose at home and we're not happy
about it,' Australia captain Harry Kewell told reporters.
'(The next phase) is going to be tough but we're prepared
'I'm pretty sure we'll have a strong squad out there and
things will be different.'
The Australians dominated possession throughout the match
but failed to capitalise on their chances after going behind
early in front of more than 70,000 spectators at Sydney's
'If there were no fans in the stand I literally would be
very happy with this game,' Verbeek said.
'But we have 70,000 people in the stands and they want to
see more chances, they want us to score goals. They want to see
at least a result and that is what we didn't show.'
Sun broke the deadlock when he gathered a headed clearance
from Australian defender Ruben Zadkovich on the outside of the
box and fired the volley past the outstretched arms of
goalkeeper Michael Petkovic into the top right corner of the
China were unlucky not to go 2-0 up in the 77th minute when
Zadkovich fouled Gao Lin inside the box and Zhi Zheng converted
But Saudi Arabia referee Khalil Al Ghamdi ordered the spot
kick be re-taken because of encroachment and the Charlton
Athletic midfielder missed the target with his second attempt.
'This victory is not very important to us because already
lost in qualification for the World Cup,' China's Serbian coach
Vladomir Petrovic said.