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Jun 8, 2012

Socceroos make modest start

The Socceroos have made a sluggish start to the final stage of World Cup qualifying with a 0-0 draw against Oman in warm conditions in Muscat.

Australia had the better of the chances at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, but Oman captain and goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi was immense for the home team.

Socceroos substitute Archie Thompson had three good looks at goal in the final stages of the match but was unable to put the ball in the back of the net.

Oman striker Amad Al Hosni troubled the visiting team's defence up the other end and forced a sensational save from Schwarzer in the second half.

The Socceroos were cautious going forward for most of the match, trying to make sure they did not concede the first goal like in last November's 1-0 loss at the same venue.

This seemed to play into the hands of the part-timers and students who enjoyed the opportunity to take some more points off one of the big fish of Asian soccer.

Australia play group leaders Japan on Tuesday in Brisbane with the reigning Asian champions having made a perfect start to qualification with six points from two matches.

The top two teams from the group progress directly to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Harry Kewell and Alex Brosque started up front with tall striker Josh Kennedy and Tim Cahill named on the bench while Jade North started at right-back and Carl Valeri edged out Mile Jedinak for a spot in midfield.

Australia started the match at a slow tempo, trying to lure the home team up the pitch.

Socceroos defender Sasa Ognenovski picked up a yellow card in the sixth minute while Oman's Al Hosni found space in the tenth minute but directed his header straight at goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

David Carney and Carl Valeri called Al Habsi into action with long-range strikes as Australia started to warm their way into the match.

The English Premier League shot-stopper did well to get down low to a Valeri shot from 12m out in the 35th minute after Harry Kewell set him up.

After conditions cooled during the halftime break, the home team really up the pressure on the tourists.

Al Hosni thought he had put his team ahead in the 56th minute with a header only for Schwarzer to dive sharply to his left and push the ball away.

Al Hosni slapped his arms against the ground in frustration and Schwarzer let rip at his team's defending.

Archie Thompson replaced his Melbourne Victory teammate Kewell in the 59th minute while Al Hosni was at it again nine minutes later with an acrobatic volley that sailed wide.

Brosque had a good chance in the 75th minute after the ball had spilt following after Thompson and Al Habsi clashed.

Brosque was unable to find a path through the defenders while Thompson could not squeeze the ball past Al Habsi seven minutes later.

Robbie Kruse replaced Luke Wilkshire in the final ten minutes and nearly set up a goal but Thompson was unable to put his backheel away from Al Habsi.

In injury time, Thompson had another look at goal only to put his glancing header wide.

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