Australia secure Brazil trip

Kennedy nets winner for Socceroos; Iran, South Korea qualify

Australia secure Brazil trip

 Substitute Josh Kennedy’s goal seven minutes from time sent Australia into the World Cup finals for the fourth time on Tuesday, ending a nervous night for 80,523 rain-soaked fans packed into Sydney's Olympic Stadium.

Six minutes after coming on as a substitute for Tim Cahill, Kennedy rose alone in the centre of the penalty box to head Mark Bresciano’s cross past the despairing dive of Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri and into the net.

The stadium erupted and Kennedy was mobbed by his team-mates as they celebrated the goal that looked like it would secure the win they needed to seal second place in Asian qualifying Group B and the ticket to Brazil that went with it.

The Australians, frustrated for much of the evening by their own lack of penetration as much as the Iraqis, will now make their third successive trip to soccer's showpiece tournament and a fourth in total after 1974, 2006 and 2010.

Iraq's hopes of qualifying were ended by last week's defeat at the hands of group winners Japan and Australia's victory also ended the slim hopes of Oman and Jordan, who were to meet later on Tuesday, of a direct passage to the World Cup.

Iraq, who lost stalwarts Younis Mahmoud and Nashat Akram to retirement after last week's defeat, fielded a young side with half an eye on the upcoming under-20 World Cup.

Goalkeeper Sabri, a survivor of the 2007 Asian Cup triumph, captained the side and it was he who turned Cahill's left-footed shot around the post after two minutes.

It proved to be a false dawn for the Australians, who, despite camping in the Iraq half, were unable to break down the visitors. Australia continued to pour into the Iraqi half but the final ball was often poor and when the shots came they lacked the power to trouble Sabri.

Cahill made his displeasure at being taken off after 77 minutes clear to Osieck but Kennedy, who last played for the Socceroos in late 2011, soon vindicated the decision.

Iran shine

Iran produced a resolute defensive display to snatch a 1-0 away win over South Korea on Tuesday and qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil. 

Despite the defeat, the Koreans also qualified for the finals after they edged Uzbekistan -- 5-1 winners over Qatar on Tuesday -- for the runners-up spot on goal difference. Uzbekistan were pushed into third place in Asian qualifying Group A, behind Iran and South Korea, and will have to rely on the playoff route to make it to Brazil. 

The third-place finishers in both Asian qualifying groups will meet in a two-leg playoff, with the winners taking on a South American side in another two-leg playoff for the right to play in Brazil next year. 

Forward Reza Ghoochannejhad was Iran’s hero, latching on to an error by defender Kim Young-gwon to score the winner in the 60th minute with the visitors’ only real chance of a one-sided match in Ulsan. 

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz punched the air in delight at the final whistle after their third qualifying win in June sealed a fourth finals appearance. 

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