Intercontinental playoffs: Late goal moves Australia into showdown against Peru

Ajdin Hrusticfired a late winner to see Australia to a nerve-wracking 2-1 victory over United Arab Emirates on Tuesday and into a last showdown for a place in this year's World Cup in Qatar.

The Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder's deflected volley in the 84th minute decided the feverish Asian zone clash in the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium that will host seven games in the World Cup in November, including the USA's opening game against Sales.

More than 4,000 Emirates fans made up more than half the crowd in the 40,00-seat capacity stadium in the Doha suburbs, where the players were blasted with air conditioning to keep the evening temperatures down.

Australia, which will take on Peru in the same stadium on Monday in their quest to qualify for a fifth straight finals, struggled to gain the upper hand and Coach Graham Arnold said he expected more from his players in the next fixture.

"I am 50 percent happy with the team. I think there is still a lot of improvement to come," Arnold said. 

The coach, who said before the game that "Aussie mental strength" would get them through, added when he challenges the players back in the dressing room on whether they could give more "all of them will agree."

Nineteen-year-old forward Harib Al-Maazmi, who scored the winner in UAE's surprising 1-0 win over South Korea that got it into this playoff, was a constant nuisance to the Australian defense in the first half.

After 18 minutes, his left wing run took him to within three yards of goal but he could not get a shot away and was smothered by the Australian defense. The Shabab Al Ahli winger beat the Australian defense again 10 minutes before the break but Socceroos goalkeeper Mathew Ryan somehow got an arm to his effort.

Four minutes into the second half, Al-Maazmi again forced Ryan into a low save before Jackson Irvine put Australia ahead. Martin Boyle stole the ball on the right wing, took it into the penalty area and Irvine, who plays for German second-division club St. Pauli, tapped in at the near post.

The Socceroos barely had time to savor its goal when Al-Maazmi again found space. His cross broke to Caio Canedo, who blasted home from close range. Canedo is a Brazilian who first got an East Timor passport and then qualified for the UAE in 2020,

The game seemed headed for extra time when Hrustic met the ball from a corner that was only half cleared and his left-footed strike took a big deflection to find the net.

UAE had been looking to qualify for the World Cup for only the second time since their debut in 1990. Their Argentine coach, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, said the UAE players "lacked the stamina in the last 15 minutes" to keep up their fight.

New Zealand will take on Costa Rica in Doha a day after the Peru-Australia game to decide the final qualifier for the tournament that starts Nov. 21.

tw/iwd

2 comments about "Intercontinental playoffs: Late goal moves Australia into showdown against Peru".
  1. James Madison, June 8, 2022 at 1:45 p.m.

    It is unlikely, but would be pretty amazing to have both Australia and New Zealand in the World Cup.

  2. schultz rockne, June 9, 2022 at 1:16 p.m.

    Yes--according to Nike, 'Sales' is our most vital opponent.

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