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Australia vs Iraq

FIFA World Cup - 2014 Qualifiers - Asian Region - Final Round - Group B - Match 8
Australia vs Iraq
at Stadium Australia on 2013-06-18T09:30:00
Score: 1-0 (0-0)
Scorers: Josh Kennedy (83')
Official Info: FIFA Details
Previous Match: Australia vs Jordan
Next Match: Republic of Korea vs Australia

Far from a comfortable win, this was an extremely tense match. In bitterly cold and wet conditions, the Socceroos triumphed 1-0 against a valiant Iraq side to claim their place at Brazil 2014.

I headed out on the special event bus and made it with 15-20 minutes to kick-off. The weather was not being kind. My seat was not under cover so I moved into the newly named Terrace Australis for protection under the roof. The crowd was building but even with 10 minutes to go it didn't look like a full house. Somehow though everyone squeezed in and by the time anthems were played the stadium was packed.

After just a few minutes it was clear this was a very different match to (say) the Uruguay game. The crowd is subdued despite the best efforts of the home end and it quickly becomes clear that Iraq are a good side who are here to play. This will be no walkover. Possibly not helping is the fact that a draw or a loss might be enough if the other game later tonight goes our way.

The first half drags on. Australia probably has the best of the chances, but we go into the break 0-0. It starts to rain during the break. This will not help the Socceroos. The pitch is not great and the rain just means the ball will be harder to control. The second half is more of the same. Australia is doing their best to play football but it's hard. The minutes tick by and the tension grows. 30 minutes left. 20 minutes left. And it's still 0-0.

Osieck starts making substitutions. Holman is off after 60'. He played well but ran out of puff. Rogic comes on and brings the game to life with three chances in just a few minutes. Then the big one that will prove to be a huge talking point. Cahill is off for Kennedy. The crowd is shocked. Cahill is visibly upset. Thompson is on for Kruse a minute later. This is it. Maybe 15 minutes to go with extra time.

Then the moment. Bresciano with a sublime cross and Kennedy with the header. 1-0 and the crowd goes mental. Osieck's big call has paid off and Cahill is the first one the scene as the mob descends on Kennedy. The final minutes are no less nerve-wracking for the goal. We hang on desperately and are relieved at the final whistle. We've qualified for Brazil on our own terms with no need to rely on other results. The first music to be played is "I Go To Rio" by Peter Allen. Great stuff.