Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Emerton Caps Off OFC Nations Cup Win

Brett Emerton capped off a magnificent 6 - 0 win over the Solomon Islands in the dying minutes on Tuesday with a running goal from an unselfish Ante Milicic pass across the face of goal.

Australia won the OFC Nations Cup with an 11 - 1 aggregate, after winning their first leg match in the Solomon Islands 5 - 1. For the two-match series, which also served as the qualifier for the 2005 Confederations Cup in Germany, Australia coach Frank Farina employed a 4 - 3 - 3 system which seemed to pay off with two solid victories.

Brett Emerton arguably benefited most from the system, playing as a wing-forward. In yesterday's match at Sydney's Aussie Stadium, in front of a crowd of 19,208, he played a hand in four of Australia's six goals. For the whole 90 minutes, he was creating openings with his runs and brilliant skill, while swapping between the two wing-forward positions.

Ante Milicic scored the first goal of the match in the fifth minute. Harry Kewell, the crowd puller, scored soon after with a simple tap-in between the Solomon Islands goalkeeper's legs from a Brett Emerton corner and a Tony Popovic header.

The rest of the first half was dedicated to poor passing by the Oceania powerhouse, exposing just how far they have to improve, while the Solomon Islands were able to stop numerous Australian attacks.

Kewell was taken off at half time to rest an ankle injury, while Archie Thompson replaced him. Tony Vidmar added to the 2 - 0 scoreline after fifteen minutes into the second half. Archie Thompson, Ahmad Elrich and finally Brett Emerton added the other three goals.

Thompson should have had a penalty paid in his favour in the middle minutes of the half, when a Solomon Islands defender ran into him in the box. However, the referee, who showed inconsistent refereeing all night, denied the exciting forward justice.

Brett Emerton was by far the field's best player, being the most prominent figure in the Australian attack. After the match the Blackburn Rovers midfielder said he was quite happy with the new 4 - 3 - 3 system, but had some reservations about it. "We've only played it the last two games but it seems to be working well. The real test will come when we play stiffer opposition," he said.

The 2005 Confederations Cup, containing Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Tunisia, Japan, Mexico and the hosts Germany, will be an important step for Australia as they continue their quest for World Cup qualification. They will have to meet tough South American opposition to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, provided they first beat their Oceanic opposition in preliminary stages.

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