Australia to meet Japan or Uzbekistan in knockout stage
Australia, the defending champions of the Asian Cup, clinched their spot in the knockout stage after a pulsating 3-2 win over Syria in their final Group B match last night.
The Socceroos will face Group F runners-up - either Japan or Uzbekistan - in the last 16.
Graham Arnold's men started their title defence with a 1-0 loss to Jordan, but seemed to have redeemed themselves with two straight victories since.
|(Awer Mabil 41, Chris Ikonomidis 54, Tom Rogic 90+3)
|(Omar Khribin 43, Omar Al Soma 80-pen)
Winger Awer Mabil, the Sudanese refugee-turned- Australian citizen, gave his side the lead with a swerving shot from outside the box which found the top-left corner in the 41st minute.
Syria equalised within two minutes through striker Omar Khribin, who fired in the rebound after his initial header was saved by Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.
But the Socceroos restored their lead nine minutes after the break when Chris Ikonomidis finished smartly by prodding the ball below the body of Syria goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma.
The ball crossed the line before Syria defender Omar Al Midani cleared it and a goal was rightly awarded.
Syria never gave up, though, and came back a second time through Omar Al Soma's penalty in the 80th minute.
A draw would still have been enough for Australia, but they found the winner in injury-time when Tom Rogic fired in a thunderbolt from outside the box.
In the other Group B match, Palestine drew 0-0 with Jordan, who had already booked their spot in the last 16.