With so much optimistic talk of increased parity in the Oceanian Zone, the final hurdle still appears a step too high for most of the South Seas minnows. Australia, who along with New Zealand are the only nations from the region to reach a FIFA World Cup finals, had their way with the ambitious Solomon Islands 6-0 on Tuesday 12 October before nearly 20,000 at Aussie Stadium in Sydney.
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The aggregate 11-1 demolition of the hopeful, but hopelessly outmatched, Solomons booked the Socceroos a spot at next year's FIFA Confederations Cup in Germany. They also reiterated their regional dominance and exorcised some demons of four years before when they missed out on the global showpiece after losing to bitter trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.
The result also emphasised just how far the Solomons and other regional minnows still have to go despite some impressive results in the preliminary rounds of qualifying for Germany 2006
With Liverpool forward Harry Kewell back in the line-up, Frank Farina's men were right on top of their opponents from the outset. The England-based man even managed to grab himself a goal before taking a seat for the second half -- suffering a slight ankle knock.
Tony Vidmar, Archie Thompson, U-23 youngster Ahmed Elrich, Brett Emerton and Ante Milicic all joined Kewell on the score sheet, as the part-time Islanders struggled to find a foothold against professional, well-drilled and largely foreign-based opposition. For Elrich, Emerton and Milicic it was their second goal in as many matches as they were all on target the week before in the stifling first-leg heat of Honiara.
The initial goal came from a corner on the Aussies' first attack in only the fifth minute. Milicic put the ball in and they never looked back. Just three minutes later a completely unmarked Kewell tapped home bashfully from six yards.
After making three changes at the half, the Socceroos made it official in minute 60, when Vidmar's strike bobbled in after a cruel defection. Thompson stroked home from Emerton with ten minutes to go, before the Blackburn provider turned scorer with a sumptuous volley to seal Solomon shame.
Easing to the title
Coming off a 5-1 win in Honiara the week before, Farina must have had some trouble motivating his charges prior to the second leg. But even so, the former Aussie international refused to disparage the thoroughly outclassed Solomons.
"You can only play what is put in front of you," he said after the match. "And you always have to do what you have to do to win."
Solomon boss Allan Gillet was far less generous in his assessment. "It was like men against boys out there," the English-born coach admitted. "The Australians truly showed the gulf in class that still exists between us, and their overseas experience was just too much for us tonight."
Despite the defeat, Gillet and the Solomons can take heart in a sensational run to the final round past heavyweights New Zealand and they can consider themselves more experienced at least when it comes to next year's Germany 2006 play-off against the same Aussies.
Next year's appearance at the hyper-exclusive FIFA Confederations Cup will be the Socceroos' third time at a FIFA Confederations Cup where they will take on some of the world's best in Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Tunisia, Japan, Mexico and the host Germans.