Surprise packets Vietnam lose 4-1 to Japan but still qualify for the second round.
Australian captain Mark Viduka, right, about to score
Iraq topped Group A of the Asian Cup after playing out a tame 0-0 draw with Oman at the Supachalasai Stadium, while Australia survived several scares from Thailand before running out eventual 4-0 winners over the unlucky joint-hosts at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.
Iraq will now remain in the Thai capital for their quarter final against Vietnam, who finished second in Group B, while Australia must travel to Hanoi to meet Group B winners Japan in a tantalising quarter-final match-up.
The Thailand versus Australia match was played in wet conditions at a packed Rajamangala National Stadium as rain fell throughout the 90 minutes, with the end score not indicative of the way the game was played.
The Thais had several chances and played arguably the more attacking football, but Australia absorbed the pressure and stormed home with three late goals after defender Michael Beauchamp had opened the scoring in the 21st minute.
Mark Viduka, Socceroos captain, added goals in the 80th and 83rd minutes, while second-half substitute Harry Kewell iced the match for Australia with a fourth in the 90th minute.
Beauchamp, who plays in Australia’s national A-League, beat Thai defender Kiatprawut Saiwaew to a Luke Wilkshire free-kick which was nicely floated into the box, and directed a powerful header into the net.
Earlier, Mark Viduka scuffed the first chance of the match in just the second minute, when Thai keeper Kosin Hathairatanakul pushed his left-foot shot wide of the far post.
A cheeky Sutee Suksomkit curled in a right-footer in the eighth minute with Mark Schwarzer caught back-pedalling and the ball going just wide of his far post, before also bending in a corner kick that almost snuck in at the near post six minutes later.
Minutes after Beauchamp’s opening goal, Thai forward Suchao Nutnum shot from outside the top of the box, again straight at Schwarzer, and when Sutee put a cross straight across an open goal the home side were unlucky not to be level on terms.
After Sydney FC defender Mark Milligan had given away a free-kick with seconds to play in first half regulation time, Sutee hit a left-foot strike that left Schwarzer flat-footed and watching as the ball breezed past the right post.
Thailand go for goals
Knowing a draw would be good enough to advance to the second round, the Thais really picked up the pace for the first 25 minutes of the second half with a string of chances going begging as they peppered the Australian goal.
A 51st minute cross along the ground from Suree Sukha on the right saw Schwarzer fumble the ball, but luckily no Thai players were in the vicinity, before the ball was again whipped in from the right with Kiatisuk Senamuang just beaten to it by Milligan as both players put their heads on the line in challenging for the ball.
Thai substitute Pipat Thonkanya was nicely played into the box by Kiatisuk, but his shot was straight at the Australian keeper when a metre either side may have resulted in the crucial equaliser.
The ultra-impressive Suchao smashed a shot just wide of Schwarzer’s left post after sloppy work by the Socceroos when failing to successfully clear the ball form their own danger area.
Cahill makes the difference
Australia were really under the pump with wave after wave of Thai attack, but after the hosts had run themselves ragged the goals started to flow in at the other end, especially after the introduction of creative midfielder Tim Cahill.
With ten minutes remaining a Cahill cross from the left saw Viduka one-on-one with Thai defender Niweat Siriwong who couldn’t control the big Newcastle United signing, and even with further attention from midfielder Tawan Sripan, the Australian skipper was able to shoot for goal, with the ball deflecting in off Suree.
Viduka had his second three minutes later, again from a Cahill cross but this time from the right, with Niweat again having no chance against the stronger man who headed home from five meters.
Kewell iced the match in the 90th minute after being put through by that man Cahill, sliding the ball under advancing Thai keeper Kosin.
The end score was not fair to Thailand who have had an impressive tournament, and one they should be proud of.