Although Australia's match against China PR had little significance, considering that the Socceroos had already secured progression to the next stage of Asian Zone qualifying to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the Australian press were less than happy with the limp performance provided by Pim Verbeek's makeshift team.
"Australia discovered just how hard it is to get a result in international football when you are forced to send boys out on men's business," was The Australian newspaper's grim assessment. "Last night's result showed just how important it will be for Australia to have its full complement of overseas stars fit and available for the final stage of the World Cup qualifiers, starting in September."
The Daily Telegraph, true to its name, was more succinct: "Enjoy a week or two off Pim - you've plenty to think about." The Sydney Morning Herald lamented the fact that Australia had spoiled their excellent record in home qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup: "
The only certainty is that Pim Verbeek has to look harder in the mirror, and closer at his dressing room
. Australia's first World Cup defeat on home soil in 27 years was a sobering experience. There's no point papering over the cracks."
Some in the Chinese media, by comparison, took some time off from blasting their team and dished out some cautious praise. "Although the result did little to change China's fate as an already-eliminated team, at least the national team can walk away with their head held high," observed the Jiangmen Daily.
The Peninsula Morning Post, however, was less forgiving: "After the academic match against Australia yesterday, we are facing the tragic fact that, despite the win, China have slipped into the third tier of Asian teams."
East Asians fail to impress
Another match which had no bearing on qualification was the Group 2 encounter between already-qualified Japan and Bahrain. Although the Japanese were delighted to reverse the defeat which had unsettled the early part of their campaign, the Asahi Shimbun was sanguine about Japan's chances in the next stage, given their early stumbles: "One thing we must understand is that Japan is longer the top dog in Asia," was the conclusion.
Nikkan Sports expounded on the problems facing Japan in the next stage: "The road to South Africa must seem a long one for Japan at the moment; it is worrying that Japan only won [against Bahrain] with such a lucky goal. It will be tough to fight teams stronger than Bahrain without much more variation in attack."
The media in Korea Republic were also less than impressed by the conclusion to their team's campaign, a 0-0 draw at home to neighbours Korea DPR. It must have been particularly painful to watch, from afar, Guus Hiddink's Russia playing with such verve at the UEFA EURO championship. "
After another goalless draw, Korea Republic's place in the [FIFA World Cup] finals looks far from being guaranteed
," grumbled Sports Donga. "That's what's happened to the Taeguk Warriors, since Guus Hiddink left six years ago. There's no fighting spirit, physical abilities, pressure, or vision whatsoever. The team have become 'paper tigers' now."
United Arab Emirates lost 3-1 at home to Syria, although they sneaked through at their opponents' expense on goal difference. "We qualified but our players failed to meet our expectations," read El Khaleej newspaper. "It is one of those days that could have ended in a nightmare. "Luck was on our side last night."
Qatar won 1-0 in Iraq to seal their place in Asia's final ten, and the Raya newspaper paid tribute to coach Jorge Fossati. "Our national team deserved this victory but the next round will be much more difficult. Fossati fulfilled his promise to the people of Qatar and guided us to the final round of the qualifiers."