Australia has qualified for the Asian Cup quarter-finals after a scintillating 4-0 win over Oman in Sydney on Tuesday night.
Only days after their 4-1 rout against Kuwait, the Socceroos produced an even better showing to end Oman’s progression hopes and have fans of the host nation dreaming of what may be at this tournament.
The goals came from four sources – Matt McKay, man of the match Robbie Kruse, Mark Milligan and Tomi Juric – meaning all eight of Australia’s goals this tournament have come from different players.
Confidence may have been raised before the match after the convincing result against Kuwait, but Oman, fresh from a tough 1-0 loss against tournament hopeful South Korea, was expected to provide a more substantial test.
As in their first match of the tournament against Kuwait, the Socceroos started slowly as a combination of nerves and a rigid Oman defence made the opening stages scrappy and tense.
The question was whether Australia would stay true to the philosophies of coach Ange Postecoglou under pressure or look for an easy way out – that question was emphatically answered in the first half.
It took a set piece to get the Socceroos up and running, with Trent Sainsbury’s knock-down header providing the easiest of tap-ins for the recalled McKay in the 27th minute.
From that point on, Australia completely took over.
Massimo Luongo, fresh from a man-of-the-match performance against Kuwait, was dazzling in midfield, turning opponents and seeking out team-mates with an ease not seen in a Socceroos shirt since the pomp of Harry Kewell.
It was an exquisite lofted through pass in the 31st minute from Luongo that found Kruse for Australia’s second, with the Bayer Leverkusen man doing the pass justice with a fantastic touch with his thigh, before holding off a defender to convert underneath Ali al Habsi.
The chances kept coming for Australia. Tim Cahill would go close on a number of occasions and would be a constant horror for the Oman defence, while the wing combination of Mat Leckie and Kruse was at its dynamic best.
The third seemed inevitable, and so it proved – despite a slight delay thanks to some bemusing refereeing.
Luongo and Kruse combined again down Australia’s right flank, with the latter delivering a delightful cross accross Oman’s six-yard box, finding an umarked Milligan who hammered home on the volley just seconds before the half-time whistle.
It would not count though, with the referee ignoring the obvious advantage to award the Socceroos a penalty for a clear foul on Cahill in the lead up.
The mistake would matter little though, with Milligan himself converting the spot kick to completely kill off the game before the half-time whistle sounded.
Little changed in the second half, despite Australia taking off two of its stand out performers in Cahill and Luongo early.
The fourth came in the 70th minute and to nobody’s surprise, with another Leckie breakaway this time producing a precise, outside-of-the-boot cross to the awaiting Juric who made no mistake.
Australia was fast, physical and frighteningly unrelenting and Oman had no answer. There is no doubt Australia has bigger challenges ahead of it, but at present the Socceroos fear nobody.