West Asia World Cup Qualifying

Hrustic Takes Australia One Step Closer to Qatar

Australia’s hopes of qualifying to a fifth straight World Cup remain alive after the Socceroos edged out the United Arab Emirates 2-1 on Tuesday’s AFC fourth round qualifying match in Al-Rayyan, Qatar.

Both Australia and the UAE enter Tuesday’s match after finishing third in their respective groups in the AFC third round qualifiers, and the winner of the match will face Peru in June 13th’s inter-confederation play-off for a ticket to the 2022 World Cup.

The UAE, aiming for a first appearance in the World Cup since 1990 and spurred on by 4000 fans in the stands of the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, pressed Australia throughout the first half. Young winger Harib Al-Maazmi was a constant threat to the Australian defense, with the Shabab Al-Ahli player testing both Australia’s backline and Mathew Ryan in the Australia goal a couple of times.

The second half saw Real Sociedad goalie Ryan denying Al-Maazmi in the 49th minute with a low save, before the Aussies stung the UAE and took the lead in the 53rd minute.

Martin Boyle, playing his club football at Al-Faisaly in Saudi Arabia, crossed the ball from the right wing, allowing St. Pauli’s Jackson Irvine to finish things off from close-range with a tap-in.

However, four minutes later the UAE would brought Australia back down to Earth with their equalizer, after Al-Maazmi managed to cross the ball onto the path of Caio Canedo, with the naturalized Brazilian beating Ryan with his left-footed shot.

With the match seemingly heading towards extra-time, Ajdin Hrustic – fresh from winning the Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt – managed to fire home a deflected volley to seal qualification into the inter-confederation play-offs for the Socceroos.

Graham Arnold’s men will remain in Al-Rayyan to take on Peru, with the winner of the match joining France, Denmark, and Tunisia in Group D of the World Cup.