Sydney: Australia secured their place at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil with a late strike from Josh Kennedy firing them to a tense 1-0 win over an under-strength Iraq at Stadium Australia.
     
It was an unconvincing victory in front of a sell-out 80,000 crowd, but ensured the Socceroos will appear at their third consecutive World Cup, alongside Japan who are already through from Asian Group B qualifying.
     
The result put Australia on 13 points, out of reach of Oman (nine points) and Jordan (seven points) who play on Wednesday.
     
Australia wasted countless chances in wet conditions before coach Holger Osieck replaced a visibly angry Tim Cahill with Kennedy in the 77th minute.
     
But the towering Nagoya Grampus striker justified the substitution when he saved the day with a clinical 83rd-minute header that sent the crowd wild.
    
 "I'm proud of everybody. It's been a really hard campaign but we showed our mental strength," captain Lucas Neill said.

Osieck kept his faith in the team that impressively beat Jordan 4-0 in Melbourne last week and they repaid the German, but it was not the authoritative performance that many were expecting.
   
Former Asian champions Iraq had no chance of qualifying for Brazil and were without veteran skipper Younis Mahmoud and midfield maestro Nashat Akram, who opted not to play. Attacking midfielder Alaa Abdul-Zahra was also absent with the team predominantly made up of players who will compete at the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey later in June.

(Agencies)

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