DOHA, Jan 23, 2011 (AFP) - Coach Holger Osieck has brushed aside any optimism about Australia winning their first major trophy at the Asian Cup with a dangerous Uzbekistan standing between them and the final.
The Socceroos needed a 117th-minute header from Harry Kewell to get past defending champions Iraq 1-0 on Saturday and reach the last-four in their only second Asian Cup since switching allegiance from Oceania.
|Australia's coach Holger Osieck celebrates after midfielder Harry Kewell scored a goal against Iraq in the Qatari capital Doha on January 22, 2011. Australia won 1-0. AFP|
The result was sweet revenge for Australia who lost 3-1 to the Iraqis in the group stage four years ago and then bowed out to Japan on penalties in the quarter-finals.
"We played solidly in defence. We created a lot of good chances. If I'm not mistaken Iraq only had probably one great opportunity. The rest came from half-chances," Osieck said.
"Basically, we should have done our job in 90 minutes and then Iraq became very strong in extra-time."
They must now regroup to face the Uzbeks on Tuesday with the prospect of a final against either Japan or South Korea at stake for the winner.
"Uzbekistan is going to be a new challenge, a different team, a different style of football," said Osieck, who saw the Central Asians battle to a 2-1 quarter-final win over Jordan the day before.
"They are a very good team too. We have to recharge our batteries because we have one day less to recover and prepare."
Osieck, appointed after their early exit from the 2010 World Cup, refused to talk about the possibility of Australia winning their first ever global title.
"That's two steps ahead," smiled the German, who guided the J-League Urawa Reds to the 2007 AFC Champions League title, adding that Uzbekistan "is my target."
"I don't want to look further ahead."
Australia, ranked 26th by FIFA and the highest among Asian teams, beat the Uzbeks at home and away in qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.
The Central Asians are a lowly 108th, below minnows such as Haiti, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda, but they proved in Doha to be resilient and dangerous.
The Socceroos used many long crosses against Iraq, including Matt McKay's pinpoint pass which produced the Kewell winner, bombarding them with 22 shots, half of them on goal. The Lions of Mesopotamia attempted just eight shots.
Osieck admitted his squad needed to be sharper in their attack.
In the group stage, they drew with powerhouse South Korea 1-1 and edged Bahrain 1-0 after a lopsided 4-0 win over unfancied India.
"Of course, we should've capitalised on one or more opportunities and it didn't happen," he said.
"But I'm not negative. In fact, I'm really happy because the players showed great determination in the game."
"I'm particularly pleased with Harry Kewell that he was the one to score the winning goal."
His squad may be headlined by such 30-something players as Kewell, captain Lucas Neill, goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and Everton midfielder Tim Cahill, but others also impressed against Iraq.
"Matt McKay did a great job on the left wide position. Brett Holman equally on the right flank," Osieck said. "We had a lot of mobility up front. we had a lot of interchanging of positions.
"Basically I'm very, very pleased with what I've seen."