Australia held their nerve to
secure a place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with a
goalless draw against Qatar on Saturday.
The result was enough to send Australia through from Group
One along with Japan, who became the first country to qualify
for the 2010 finals when they beat Uzbekistan 1-0.
South Korea later joined them in the finals after securing
qualification from Group Two.
"They put us under pressure," Australia coach Pim Verbeek,
who took over the job from his fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink,
said in a televised interview.
"We thought they could only do that for 20 minutes and they
did it for almost 90 so I have to congratulate the young players
from Qatar. They made it very difficult for us."
Australia and Japan are on 14 points with two games to go in
Group One, ahead of Bahrain (7), Qatar (5) and Uzbekistan (4).
Only the top two in each Asian group qualify directly for
Qatar still have a chance of finishing third and qualifying
for a play-off but they will need to win their last game against
Japan and rely on other results going their way.
Australia, who have not conceded a single goal in the final
stage of qualifying, only needed a point against Qatar to reach
the World Cup finals for just the third time, following their
appearances in 1974 and 2006 as a member of Oceania.
They qualified through Asia this time after switching
confederations in 2006 following a series of excruciating
near-misses over the previous two decades.
They were overwhelming favourites to seal their place
against Qatar after beating them three times last year but were
content to settle for a draw in a match with few clear chances.
Australia midfielder Tim Cahill hit the bar with an overhead
kick in the first half then forced a brilliant reflex save from
Qatar keeper Qasem Burhan with a half-volley after the break.
"It's another first for Australian football and it's come
off the back of a comprehensive qualification pathway which
began in February last year," Football Federation of Australia
chief executive Ben Buckle said in a statement.
"Qualifying this time around, with the travel and match
conditions the team has experienced, is a true measure of the
progress football has made.
"While 'do or die' results, such as the famous Uruguay game
four years ago are exciting, a qualifying campaign such as this
one through the Asian zone is a tough test. We could not be more