Neill delighted with night’s work

He might have broken one of the longest scoreless streaks in international football but Lucas Neill was even happier at seeing the Socceroos move to within inches of a place at next year’s World Cup.

The captain’s late header capped a 4-0 win over Jordan at Etihad Stadium, ending his run of 90 scoreless matches, dating way back to when he made his debut as a teenager in 1996.

The 35-year old was rapt to break through after a string of close shaves but even prouder to see his team rise to the occasion, putting forward their most dominant display since the 2011 Asian Cup 6-0 semi-final romp over Uzbekistan.

“It was in the 90th minute plus one but they all count and it was a fantastic moment to finally get that goal,” he said after the game.

“But to do it on a night where the team put in an outstanding performance was truly fantastic.

“Now what we need to do is just focus on the next game. Mark [Schwarzer] and I said to the players now was the time to concentrate on the job ahead of us. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Three points for the Socceroos against Iraq at ANZ Stadium next Tuesday would book Australia’s place in Brazil after a qualifying campaign that, until the past eight days, could only be described as underwhelming.

“Some of us have a month or so off at the end of this to party or whatever else, so we just have to go to Sydney and get the job done,” Neill said.

“We want another big crowd coming out to support us as well. There was 44,000 tonight, which was a great turnout, and it makes a big different having that support behind you.”

Neill was a rock for the Socceroos in the heart of defence, emphatically proving that the ex-West Ham skipper has plenty to offer at the elite level of international and club football.

He is currently out of contract after his short-term deal with Sydney FC expired and won’t make a decision on his future until after the Iraq match.

Teammate Archie Thompson seemed to give the Socceroos an immediate boost as soon he entered the fray in the 60th minute, helping set up a move that culminated in his great friend Tim Cahill netting Australia’s second goal of the night.

In front of an adoring home crowd at Etihad Stadium, Thompson said he was delighted to provide the spark which helped seal the result.

“In the last game I had an impact – six seconds,” he joked.

“Seriously, I know my role in the team and Holger has said he wants me to be an impact player who can change the game. We felt they looked a bit tired out there, that we needed fresh legs and I was happy to come on and have the impact that I did.

“But I also believe it started from the first whistle, even before the game. The boys were confident and we knew we had to win this game convincingly and we did.”

Thompson echoed Neill’s sentiments about ensuring the focus would quickly turn to next week’s match against Iraq.

“It was one of the great performances but in the rooms after the game we touched on how it all starts now for next week,” he said.

“We’re going to enjoy this one with our family and friends but it’s important we put our heads down and prepare for the Iraq match.”

Thompson said it was especially poignant for him and the team’s many veterans knowing full well that their international careers are over if they don’t make it to Brazil.

“We’re just one step away from being in a World Cup and, for me and the older guys, this opportunity will never come around again,” he said.

“We’re just hoping the Sydney crowd come out in more force than they did for the Oman game – we want everyone there because this is a big match that could put us into a World Cup.”

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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