Neill confident of 2014 World Cup berth
Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill confidently predicted Australia would book a place in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup after being buoyed by their spirited 1-1 draw with Japan.
The 10-man Socceroos came from 1-0 down against the in-form Asian rivals on Tuesday night to snare a valuable group B point in their World Cup qualifier at Suncorp Stadium.
Luke Wilkshire slammed home the equaliser from the penalty spot in the 70th minute – shortly after the Japanese celebrated as though they’d already earned their trip to Rio when stand-out defender Yuzo Kurihara put them ahead.
Neill admitted Australia, who made a rushed trip back from Oman on Sunday, would have been happy with the one point before the match, and even more so when Mark Milligan was controversially sent off in the 55th minute.
A replacement for injured playmaker Mark Bresciano (hip), Milligan picked up a soft yellow in the first half before receiving a highly dubious second one after attempting to block a cross into the box and hardly brushing Atsuto Uchida.
Six years ago to the day that Australia came from behind to beat the Blue Samurai 3-1 at the 2006 World Cup, the Socceroos almost broke Japanese hearts again but Sasa Ognenovski’s 77th-minute shot rebounded off the cross-bar.
“We would have taken the draw before the game, it’s been a tough two weeks with a lot of travel,” said Neill, whose team has two points from two matches.
“The way things went with the red card we had to dig in and then we conceded an unfortunate goal, but as always a bit of Aussie spirit came into play and the crowd got behind us.
“We could have gone on to win it. And we would have stolen it so we’ll take the draw.
Neill lauded the No.23 world ranked Japanese outfit, well ahead on the group B table with seven points, as the best they’ve assembled and expected the Blue Samurai would continue to make short work of rivals Jordan, Oman and Iraq.
“If Japan keep beating their opposition and we beat our’s then we’ll be on our way to Brazil,” he said.
“We showed what we were all about and I’m sure we’ll go on and win plenty of games and make sure when we come home we don’t lose.
“We’ll be there.”
Coach Holger Osieck described Australia’s display as superb and praised his team’s character for overcoming the losses of Bresciano then Milligan.
“What they showed today with one man down is hard to describe,” he said.© AAP 2013
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