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Aussies leave Uzbekistan´s World Cup hopes on knife edge

SoccerNews in World Cup 10 Sep 2008

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Australia plunged Uzbekistan further into the World Cup abyss with a 1-0 win to successfully launch their final Asian qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010 here on Wednesday.

FC Basel defender Scott Chipperfield's 26th-minute header grabbed all the points in Australia's first senior international with the Uzbeks, controlling the match through their experienced European brigade.

The loss heaped more pressure on Uzbekistan, who remain pointless after two games following their demoralising 3-0 loss to Qatar in Doha last weekend.

The Uzbeks' survival now hinges on their crucial away match against Japan in Saitama on October 15, while the Australians' next assignment is a home match against Qatar in Brisbane on the same night.

Chipperfield, playing in only his second international for 19 months, scored the winner with a free header in the 26th minute after a cross from right-back Luke Wilkshire.

He had the freedom to steer his downward header past goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov from just outside the six-yard box.

“The goal came at a good time for us and Bresciano also had a great chance to make it 2-0 before halftime, but in the end we got the three important points,” Chipperfield said.

“You always want to get off to a good start in your first qualifying game so we are going to be confident heading into our next few qualifying games and it will be difficult for Uzbekistan now with two losses.”

Coach Pim Verbeek was delighted with the commitment of his Australian players in the intimidating atmosphere of the Pakhtakor stadium.

“Football-wise we have played better games, but if you look for the commitment and attitude of the boys and the way they worked hard for each other, I think they did a great job,” Verbeek said.

The Uzbeks were largely disjointed throughout the match and well bossed by the Australian defence marshalled by West Ham United defender Lucas Neill.

Australia, attempting to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals through Asia for the first time, had a wonderful opportunity to double their lead in first half injury time through Palmero's Mark Bresciano.

Bresciano, sent clear on goal by Harry Kewell, could not hit the target in his one-on-one on Nesterov's goal with a chance that would have killed off the match.

Grosseto holding midfielder Carl Valeri picked up his second yellow card of the qualifying campaign to force him out of Australia's next World Cup game against Qatar.

Striker Maksim Shatskikh, held in check by the Australians, had what appeared a strong penalty appeal turned down by Kuwaiti referee Saad al Fadhli five minutes after halftime when he was brought down by Bresciano.

Uzbekistan put the Australian defence under greater pressure in the second half after a change of tactics and showed more urgency, but the Socceroos weathered the threat to securely see out the match.

Verbeek took off Bresciano for Sheffield United's David Carney in the 73rd minute for some fresh legs.

Carney minutes later missed a great chance to kill off the game on a break engineered by Harry Kewell only to limply run the ball out.

The Australians had a pre-match setback when key PSV Eindhoven midfielder Jason Culina withdrew with a stomach bug and was replaced by Jacob Burns.

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