Tim Cahill kept Australia’s FIFA World Cup™ dreams alive with a superb headed double as Ange Postecoglou’s side beat Syria 2-1 after extra-time.
The goals in Sydney were the Socceroos captain and all-time leading scorer’s 49th and 50th for his country and set up an Intercontinental Play-off against the fourth-placed team in the CONCACAF Zone.
Australia squeezed through the hard way though, coming from behind and enduring some tense and difficult moments despite dominating much of this epic AFC play-off.
They were behind inside six minutes, in fact, when a stray Mark Milligan pass in midfield set up a Syrian counter-attack. The visitors grasped their opportunity to strike, with Tamer Mohamd sprinting through the heart of the Aussie defence and feeding Omar Al Soma for a left-foot shot that sailed high into the net.
Australia weren’t behind for long, though, and it was no surprise that Cahill was the man to haul them level. It was a superb equaliser too, with the veteran forward heading powerfully home at the end of a slick move on the right wing capped by a glorious Mathew Leckie cross.
From that moment onwards, the game was a tale of complete domination by Australia, who monopolised possession without always being able to find a way through the packed and well-organised Syrian defence. The Socceroos continued to struggle even after Mahmoud Al Mawas was sent off for a second bookable offence following a rash challenge on Robbie Kruse.
It took until extra time for a winner to be found and, again, it was that man Cahill. The Aussie hero completed his half-century of international goals with yet another header, showing off his famous leap to direct home a looping Kruse cross.
Australia will now wait to discover who they will face in that Intercontinental Play-off, with their opponents set to be decided by this evening’s CONCACAF qualifying fixtures. The Aussies will face the fourth-placed side in the ‘Hex’, with USA, Panama or Honduras all potential opponents for them next month.