The Socceroos failed to impress against a difficult War Elephants side, but a late goal proved enough to seal progress to the next round of the competition
Australia sealed their passage into the fourth round of their World Cup qualification campaign after defeating Thailand 1-0 at the Suphachalasai Stadium on Tuesday.
Brett Holman’s 78th minute header was enough to seal the victory for the Socceroos after facing a determined effort from a resilient War Elephants team.
Despite a scrappy opening exchange from both sides, Australia were presented with an opportunity after just three minutes when Michael Zullo’s cross found Josh Kennedy in the box but the striker could only head the ball straight at Thailand goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool.
Thailand were presented with their first real opportunity when Suree Sukha was given too much space by Zullo and his cross found Kirati Keawsombut in the penalty area, however Australia captain Lucas Neill managed to track back and put in a goal-saving challenge on the Thailand striker.
The Socceroos were then presented with another chance on goal when Brett Emerton’s cross found Kennedy in front of his marker; however the striker again could only head the ball straight at Hathairattanakool.
The War Elephants were gifted with their best chance of the match after half an hour when skipper Datsakorn Thonglao picked out an unmarked Sukha who went one-on-one Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer but smashed his shot high over the bar.
Thailand continued to mount pressure on the Socceroo’s defence after the break, continuing to place penetrating balls into the box but none of which troubled Schwarzer.
Australia’s break came in the 78th minute when Holman picked up a loose ball in the centre of midfield before drawing his marker before squaring to an unmarked Emerton; the Sydney FC man’s perfectly weighted cross finding Holman at the back post and the attacker comfortably headed past goalkeeper Hathairattanakool.
The War Elephants continued to pressurise the Socceroos in the last minutes of the match hoping to salvage any chance of keeping their World Cup dreams alive but to no avail.
The victory leaves Australia in a commanding position at the top of Group D on 12 points.