By Ross
Stapleton

The Socceroos will meet Uruguay for the right to play in next year’s
World Cup finals in Germany after its 1-0 victory against already
qualified Argentina this afternoon. Playing at home in Montevideo, the
hosts only had to win to finish fifth in the South American
qualification tournament and earn a crack at Australia in
November.

Outplayed by
Argentina in a goal-less first half and knowing Colombia was 1-0 up against
Paraguay at the break, Uruguay
conjured a goal in a penalty box scramble just two minutes into the second half, with the Argentine goalkeeper’s slight
hesitation proving fatal. After that, it was enough for Uruguay to slow the game
down and concentrate on protecting their vital lead, while Argentina were hardly
committed in their pursuit of an equalizer.

Interestingly, on the eve of today’s matches,
Chile’s coach Nelson Acosta expressed
some concern for a possible “arrangement” between Argentina and Uruguay given
the Argentines have already qualified and Uruguay progressed to the 2001
play-off against Australia – having drawn with Argentina in a final qualifier.
“There are
precedents of this, but I hope that Argentina and Uruguay play in normal
conditions, not like in 2001,” he said.

While Chile
was seen as our preferred option – Colombia at home was seen as our worst case
scenario because of the high altitude and its debilitating effects on our
players, so Uruguay represents the middle ground.

Meanwhile, England
beat Poland 2-1 earlier today to finish top of group six in
European qualifing, though both had already booked a place in Germany. But the news
was bleak in Dublin where Ireland lost their battle for a play-off spot when they only managing a 0-0 home draw with
Switzerland.

Serbia topped Spain’s group; so now the European giants as
well as Switzerland, Turkey, Norway, Slovakia and Czech Republic, can only hope for a finals spot via
the two-leg consolation play-offs. Read
more about the play-offs here.

The late reviving France can relax after securing direct entry with a
4-0 victory over Cyprus, as can Serbia & Montenegro and Sweden, as
one of the two best group runners-up. But current European champions
Greece, Denmark and Russia are all out.

Peter Fray

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