Coach Pim Verbeek says Australia have sent a strong message to rivals after his injury-hit team's away win to Uzbekistan to launch their final Asian 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying campaign, reports said.

A first-half header from veteran Scott Chipperfield proved the winner for Australia on Wednesday and condemned the Uzbeks to their second consecutive group defeat, ahead of a must-win trip to Japan next month.

The Australians won despite the last-minute withdrawal with a stomach bug of key midfielder Jason Culina, who joined a casualty list that included European stars Vince Grella, Mark Viduka, Tim Cahill and Scott McDonald.

"I think we have played better games at certain moments, but, yes, I think they (rivals) all know now how good we are," Verbeek told Friday's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. "When you see how many players we didn't have, players with extra quality, then you have to realise this was a very good result.

Only a start
"We should not (under-estimate) Uzbekistan away - getting the three points, it's great. We always said if we win one away game and our four home games, that's 15 points, and that can be enough. This is the first step, a great start, but of course it's only a start," he said, adding that Australia have seven qualifying games to go.

The Dutch coach said the Uzbeks rarely threatened, although defender Luke Wilkshire did make two goal-line clearances. "Organisation-wise, we did very well," Verbeek said. "We didn't give one chance away. How many times did (goalkeeper) Mark Schwarzer have to dive? I think it was zero."

Australia face Qatar in their next qualifying game in Brisbane on 15 October.