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Australia Beat Thailand 2-1 In World's Most Frustrating World Cup Qualifier

This is not happening.

05/09/2017 8:53 PM AEST | Updated 05/09/2017 10:17 PM AEST
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We got there. The Socceroos have beaten a spirited Thailand 2-1 in their crucial FIFA World Cup qualifier in Melbourne, and now await the result of the Saudi Arabia vs Japan game to decide their 2018 World Cup fate.

If the Saudis lose or draw, Australia is through to Russia. If the Saudis win, we will be relegated to third place in our group, which means a long and arduous two-step qualification process.

But that's a matter for discussion on Wednesday. For now, all that matters is that Australia won. Just.

It could have been 8-1. It probably should have been given the fact we had at least 25 clear shots on goal. But in the end, the Socceroos were lucky to escape victorious after the Thais improbably equalised in the 82nd minute.

Australia absolutely dominated the first half of this match. But somehow, against all probability, a goal just would not come.

It is simply inconceivable that Australia did not score in that first half. Imagine diving into a lake and not getting wet. Imagine walking through downtown Melbourne and not bumping into an AFL fan or a hipster. Now imagine the Socceroos camped in front of Thai goal, passing the ball as they pleased, having shot after shot yet still, somehow, not getting the ball in the back of the net.

The Socceroos had 75 percent of the possession throughout the match and at times appeared to be toying with Thailand.

The dominance started early. Aaron Mooy, who is in such wonderful form for Huddersfield in the Premier League, hit the post in the 6th minute. No goal.

Tom Rogic, who had such a wonderful year for Celtic last year, schemed away endlessly but couldn't find a way through.

Tim Cahill, Australia's Mr Score A Goal When We Really Need It, hit the post and watched the ball spin agonisingly across the face. "Was it going to be one of those nights? " the commentators wondered. Was it going to be one of those nights, everyone else in Australia wondered with him.

In the 36th minute, the Thai goalie inexplicably carried the ball outside the area. You don't even want to know what Australia did with the indirect free kick. Let's just say if there was a goal 30 rows back it would've still gone over the bar.

The two teams went to the break deadlocked. If only they gave you a point for missing as they do in AFL.

After barely a minute of the second half, Thailand made a break. Their attacker was brought down in the box. How did the ref not award a penalty? He looked at his linesman but nope. For Australia, that let-off was almost as good as a goal.

Moments later, Tom Rogic struck firmly and forced a save. Still no goal.

In the 57th minute, Robbie Kruse replaced Australia's talisman Tim Cahill in a pragmatic coaching move from Ange Postecoglou. He almost scored immediately. But -- need we say it? -- he didn't.

The score was still 0-0 after 61 minutes, at which point the Aussies had taken an incredible 20 shots.

Who indeed? In the 67th minute, Tommy Rogic again hit the woodwork. Any other match and it would have gone in. But by this stage, the remarkable was becoming the unremarkable.

And then it came. Tomi Juric finally headed a cross home. Thank god. Hallelujah.

The Socceroos were up 1-0 but needed more goals to improve their goal difference and make the qualification equation more difficult for Saudi Arabia.

But anyone who thought the proverbial floodgates would open at this point was wrong. A goalmouth scramble in the 79th minute offered enough opportunities for about six goals. Somehow, the ball pinballed in the wrong direction for Australia. A minute later Tomi Juric blazed away. The goalie saved, forcing corner number 13 for Australia.

And then Thailand scored, making the equation that much more difficult. Credit to the Thais. They looked dangerous on the fast break all night, and the finish was perfect.

Thankfully Australia struck back soon afterwards. A David Leckie strike off an Aaron Mooy corner put the Socceroos back in front 2-1 against Thailand.

And that's the way it stayed. And Australia said "Phew" as a nation. And Tomi Juric, who scored Australia's first goal, told Channel 9 that his side deserved to put "at least five" goals into the back of the net on the strength of their performance.

We'll know by dawn if two goals was enough.

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