Not the best game of the tournament by a long way can’t help but wish that Harry Kewell’s goal had come in the 90 minutes, it won’t matter to the Aussies though, a place in the semi-finals for them and the reigning Champions go home.
Early on the Iraqi defence seemed to get themselves into a mess with high balls into the box, ten minutes in and a high ball was missed by both centre backs but Brett Holman couldn’t time his jump properly and Mohammed Kassid could easily collect the ball, a good chance though.
Then on the half hour another high ball was misjudged by Samal Saeed and Matt McKay saw his chance, snuck in round the back but he couldn’t apply the finish and the keeper made another easy save. The Iraqi defence seemed to be all at sea, gaps appearing in the back four.
Before half time Australia created a fantastic chance, a great through ball sent McKay through on goal but his shot was very poor, hitting it straight at Kassid, in those positions you need to make the keeper work. It seemed the Iraqi defence was in the dressing room before the whistle had even gone.
Australia keep the long ball tactic going this time a flick on found Harry Kewell, he did brilliantly to spin past his man, through one on one with Kassid he tried to be cheeky and lob the goalie, everyone could only watch as the ball sailed over the cross bar and away to safety. A goal at that time would have destroyed the Iraq confidence.
The second half saw Iraq create their first decent chance, a neat passing move saw Younis Mahmood find Imad Mohammed with a exquisite through ball, he went for placement over power and the ball trundled past the far post, again another chance that failed to test the goalkeeper and that was the story of the match unfortunately.
Both sides created a few half chances as the half went on but neither side could test the respective goalkeeper, most efforts seemed to find their way straight into the keeper’s gloves. The last chance of the half fell to Brett Holman his 20 yard shot took a deflection and Kassid managed to turn it over the bar, we were going to extra-time.
Sasa Ognenovski nearly pulled out the spectacular to win it for Australia, the corner was swung in and Ognenovski tried his luck with a overhead kick, the ball was heading for the top corner until teammate Mile Jedinak tried to redirect it away from the goalkeeper but his touch only sent the ball flying over the bar.
All Iraq’s moves fizzled out due to a lack of quality, once in good positions the ability to find the final ball escaped them too often. Eventually they were made to pay, with four minutes left Australia finally found the breakthrough.
McKay had collected the ball wide on the left; a great run from Kewell had seen him lose both the centre backs. McKay floated in a tremendous through ball and Kewell placed a header that Tim Cahill would have been proud of, into the bottom corner, a great goal to win an average game.
Iraq had no reply and the game was all but over. The Champions eliminated the plucky new boys on their way to the semi-finals. They will need to perform better to reach the final, however the Socceroos will be delighted to be there.
Coach Holger Osieck felt Australia fully deserved the 1-0 victory
“I’m very pleased and happy with my team’s performance,” said Osieck.
“We managed to qualify for the semi-finals, which is definitely a great achievement and, looking at the game itself, although it went to extra time, during the regular 90 minutes we had more of the game.
“We played solidly in defence, we had a good structure, we created a lot of good chances and if I’m not mistaken, Iraq only had one great opportunity, the rest came from half-chances.
Iraq coach Wolfgang Sidka felt there was little to choose between the two sides
“Australia had one more day’s rest but I think, especially in extra time, we played better than them,” said the German.
“We created chances in that period and then two minutes from the end, a good cross and a good header, hard luck for us, good luck for the Australian team.
“I think we created our chances by playing football. I must praise my players especially for the last 30 minutes. The condition was very good, we did everything at the end to try and win and we end up empty-handed.”
Australia will play Uzbekistan on Tuesday for a place in the final.