Australia will make history on Wednesday if it can defeat Uruguay by two or more goals and qualify for the elusive World Cup finals.

No team in the long history of Australian attempts at World Cup qualification has ever beaten opposition by more than one goal on home turf. Mark Viduka and company will need to be at their best at Sydney’s Telstra Stadium to overcome what will be a defensive Uruguayan outfit looking to protect their slender one goal lead.

Uruguay played three strikers and the game-breaking Alvaro Recoba in Saturday’s 1-0 victory and despite being pegged back by the Australians early, were unlucky not to get a second goal late in the match. They will be a lot more defensive come Wednesday night.

It was a Recoba cross from a dubious free-kick in the first half that set up Dario Rodriguez for the winning goal. But the Australians can also consider themselves unlucky after failing to turn their early domination into goals.

Australia coach Guus Hiddink pulled some surprises in playing veteran defender Tony Popovic, who has been warming the bench for Crystal Palace this season, and Harry Kewell, who is still finding his feet since returning from injury. Another surprise was the starting spot for Melbourne Victory’s Archie Thompson who looked lively early but faded as the game wore on.

Mark Viduka on the other hand was excellent, causing problems for the Uruguayan defence at every opportunity. His long range free-kick, tipped around the post by goalkeeper Fabian Carini, was Australia’s best first-half chance.

The Socceroos can take plenty of positives into the second leg, having controlled the match for long periods and looking more than capable of breaking down the opposition. But with Uruguay likely to revert to a more defensive formation on Wednesday, and star stopper Diego Lugano returning from suspension, a two goal victory is still a mountainous task.

The Uruguayans may not have won an away game in their South American qualifiers, but they did grind out several goalless draws, which is all they will need to get to Germany next year.

Hiddink will also make a few changes, with Bresciano sure to come into the starting line-up, while there could be room for Tim Cahill who played no part in Montevideo. Australia will play all out attack in Sydney to avoid yet another heartbreaking defeat, but they cannot afford to concede a goal, with away goals counting double if aggregate scores are tied. A 1-0 win would force extra time and if there is still no result, it’s a penalty shootout.

Cheered on by an expected 82,000 fans in Sydney on Wednesday, the Socceroos have the opportunity to make Australian sporting history and qualify for their first World Cup since 1974. Millions of Australians will be hoping they do.

Uruguay vs Australia: player ratings

By Greg Horgan &
Simon Ainsworth

The Australian team battled hard yesterday in Montevideo and perhaps should have had a goal from their first half efforts when they dominated play. They played well and achieved a good result. Remember, Brazil and Argentina have never won in Montevideo.

Some might say these rankings are a bit harsh given the commendable result, however we still lost and some players played better than others – check out the ratings for all the Australian players from yesterday’s defeat here.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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