Australia edge UAE to book Peru showdown

Australia beat United Arab Emirates 2-1 to move one step away from a place at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

After Caio Canedo had cancelled out Jackson Irvine’s opener, Ajdin Hrustic won it for the Socceroos with a heavily-deflected volley in the 84th minute. Australia will now face Peru in an intercontinental play-off on Monday. The winners will join Denmark, France and Tunisia in Group D at the global finals.

UAE began as the underdogs, but gave their opponents some nervy moments during the first half, with Harib Abdalla flickering his brilliance and Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan forced into two smart saves. If the first period produced no goals, the second produced two within 12 minutes of the restart. First, after fine work from Hrustic and then Martin Boyle, Irvine fired the Socceroos ahead.

Then, Abdalla slipped his marker down the left and, when the Aussies failed to clear his cross, Caio pounced on the loose ball and smashed it into the roof of the net from close range. That equaliser awoke Australia. Craig Woodwin skied the ball over when an excellent Irvine cross found him unmarked at the back post, before Hrustic went close from distance. It was the same player who settled the contest with normal time running out. An Aaron Mooy corner was cleared into Hrustic’s path, and his wicked volley was deflected past goalkeeper Khalid Eisa.

“It means everything,” said Boyle. “I can see my mum and dad – it’s the first time they’ve seen me play for Australia. I can see a tear in my dad’s eye. “I thought we dominated the game. Obviously Maty made a couple of great saves, but I thought we controlled the game. It’s in the back of the net, we’re through. “But it’s a job half done. We need to dust ourselves off and get ready for Peru.”

Australia have participated in five World Cups, including the last four. Their first and only meeting came at Russia 2018. In their final Group C game, goals from Andre Carillo and Paolo Guerrero secured the South Americans a 2-0 win.