Australia scored three goals in five whirlwind minutes to come back from behind and dump Frank Rijkaard's Saudi Arabia out of the running for 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualification in Melbourne today. Australia trailed 2-1 at half-time but hit back with three second-half goals to run out 4-2 winners, as Oman leapfrogged the Saudis to claim the second Group D qualifying spot.
"It was a game we focused on and it was really important for us. It's a sad moment for Saudi football," Rijkaard said. "If you want to come out of a sad moment you have to work really hard. If I continue working there I'll work really hard."
Oman's 2-0 home win over Thailand took them past the lavishly-funded Saudis into the final round of Asian qualification for Brazil 2014. Saudi Arabia will miss out on their second straight FIFA World Cup finals campaign after qualifying for four consecutive tournaments from 1994 to 2006.
The Saudis rocked the home side, scoring twice in the opening half and controlling possession, but Australia emerged stronger after German coach Holger Osieck's half-time team talk. Young midfielder Salem Al-Dossari put the Saudis in front in the 19th minute with a brilliant goal, controlling the ball and eluding three defenders before unleashing a strike that beat Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
It was a game we focused on and it was really important for us. It's a sad moment for Saudi football.
Australia gradually got more possession and equalised two minutes before half-time when the recalled Mark Bresciano put Alex Brosque clear and the Shimizu S-Pulse striker beat Waleed Abdullah from close range. But the Socceroos paid for slack marking in first half injury time when Hassan Fallatah's cross found Nasser Alshamrani, who put the Saudis ahead for a second time.
Australia skipper Lucas Neill had a headed strike - which would have been his first international goal -- flagged offside on 63 minutes, though replays suggested he was in line with the last defender as the ball was whipped into the box. But the home side did finally equalise in the 72nd minute when the impressive Brosque laid on a ball for Harry Kewell to sidefoot home his 17th international goal.
The hosts then netted twice in quick succession to lead 4-2, with Brosque glancing home a Brett Emerton cross and Emerton scoring after an assist from the outstanding Bresciano to leave Rijkaard shaking his head in disbelief. Former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Emerton, 33, has now scored in four FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns.
"I think it (defeat) had something to do with fatigue," Rijkaard said. "Maybe with the pressure on the players, maybe the equaliser it took away the courage of the players."