It's a swag of 'firsts'
The Qantas Soceroos are celebrating a swag of "firsts" with repercussions far beyond South Africa.
SYDNEY, June 7 AAP - The Qantas Soceroos are celebrating a swag of "firsts" with repercussions far beyond South Africa.
It's the first time they have qualified for back-to-back World Cup finals.
It's the first time they have qualified through Asia.
It's the first time they have qualified with games to spare.
It's the first time, incidentally, they have qualified for a World Cup outside of Germany.
Only the quirks of scheduling prevented another first - they were the second nation to qualify for the 2010 finals, a few hours behind Japan.
The goalless draw in Qatar also bolsters their claims to be the first and foremost nation in their new geographical zone.
And, perhaps most important of all, it delivers solid backing to their claims to host the World Cup itself in 2018 or 2022, a bid Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will help launch in Canberra next weekend.
Repeat qualification for the game's biggest stage can do nothing but advance Australia's cause in the minds of FIFA 's power brokers, especially for a relative newcomer from the nether regions of the globe.
Australia did not seriously enter the consciousness of much of the football world until Germany in 2006, when they handed eventual champions Italy a giant scare in the round of 16.
Australia's weekend performance in Qatar may not live long in the memory, buts its significance will.
It lacked the nerve-jangling excitement of Australia's two previous World Cup watersheds - John Aloisi's penalty against Uruguay in Sydney in 2005 and Jimmy MacKay's scorching 1973 goal to defeat South Korea in a play-off in Hong Kong.
But Qantas Socceroo coach Pim Verbeek and his players won't care a whit about that.
They did exactly what they set out to do - they "finished the job" and came home from Qatar with their precious point.
The manner in which they have qualified apparently has its detractors.
But what country in the world not swap places with them?
What country would not be over the moon at qualifying with two matches remaining?
What country would not happily settle for four wins and two draws from six qualifiers, and not a goal conceded in all that time?
What country would not be licking its lips at the prospect now facing the Qantas Socceroos - fiesta time on successive Wednesdays in Sydney and Melbourne, where no occurrence known to man or deity can allow South Africa's 2010 World Cup to take place without them?