Wed, Jun 19, 9:58pm by Kevin Pitstock
Australia’s national football squad became the third team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup with a victory over Iraq in the qualification round. Josh Kennedy scored in the 83rd minute to give the Aussies their margin of victory.
The Socceroos left Aussie football fans in suspense for most of the match. Despite holding an edge in possession, the Australian team had trouble scoring against the Iraqis’ stingy defence. The score remained at 0-0 until the late stages of the match. The partisan Australian crowd in ANZ Stadium booed just five minutes earlier when coach Holger Osiek substituted Josh Kennedy for fan favourite Tim Cahill. They were cheering when the coach’s substitution paid such big dividends.
The goal occurred when Marc Bresciano sent a right-wing cross into the box and Kennedy headed it home with top level accuracy. This gave Australia the much-needed second place finish in Group B, behind Japan. Had the Australians not defeated the Iraqis, they would have taken third place in their group and been forced to win on aggregate in a set of play-in games with Uzbekistan, which defeated Qatar 5-1, but still came up short on goal differential. They needed a 6-goal victory to seize 2nd place in Group A from South Korea.
Since Australia leapfrogged Jordan for 2nd place in Group B, it will be Jordan facing off against Uzbekistan. The winner of those matches will face the 5th place team from South America for the right to play in the 2014 World Cup.
Two other teams qualified for the tournament on the same day: Iran and South Korea. Iran defeated South Korea 1-0 to win Group A. Meanwhile, South Korea qualified with a second place finish, despite falling to the Iranians. This is the fourth time Iran has qualified for the World Cup, including in 1978, 1998, and 2006.
It was reported that Iranians took to the streets with their national flag to celebrate their sports triumph, shouting “Iran! Iran!” This was the second street celebration in as many weeks, after the Iranians celebrated the election of their new president, Dr Hassan Rohani.
South Korea’s coach Choi Kang-Hee announced after his team’s defeat he would step down from the national squad. This was a mild surprise, despite his announcing he would only coach to this stage when he accepted the job in 2011.
Besides the three teams which qualified, Brazil is an automatic qualifier. In the previous four World Cup tournaments held in South America, a South American team won the event. Despite their history of excellence, many experts don’t see the Brazilians as the favourites to win the 2014 event.
Many see the defending champions from Spain as the prohibitive favourites. Some have even used the word “unstoppable” to describe La Roja, though sports history is littered with seemingly unbeatable squads who went down to defeat.
Early World Cup futures on Centrebet have Australia as a 101.00 underdog to win the 2014 World Cup. Defending champion Spain is the favourite at 4.50. Host nation Brazil is the next favourite at 5.50, while Germany is next best at 6.00.
Argentina and the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, have the next best odds at 6.50. England’s odds sit at 21.00, while New Zealand sits at 1001.00, tied for the worst odds along with Hungary and Uzbekistan.
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