Qualifying brings relief for jubilant Socceroos

GUY HAND
Last updated 01:59 19/06/2013
Lucas Neill
Getty Images

WORLD CUP JOY: Socceroos captain Lucas Neill salutes the Sydney crowd after Australia's 1-0 win over Iraq, sending them to the 2014 World Cup.

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His dress shirt saturated to the skin, Socceroos coach Holger Osieck stood to the side of the dressing-room.

His players were jumping around, chanting.

Some were enjoying a well-earned beer. Tim Cahill was busy soaking anyone and everyone with whatever liquid he could get his hands on, and plenty of his teammates were happy to help out.

Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy and chief executive David Gallop strode around congratulating players and staff.

All while a champagne-soaked and reflective Osieck stood to the side of the change-room, watching his players deservedly celebrate and taking in the magnitude of what had been achieved.

Mixed with the intoxicating atmosphere in the Australian inner sanctum following the 1-0 victory over Iraq which booked their passage to Brazil was an obvious sense of relief.

The Socceroos' 21-month campaign to reach a third successive World Cup finals has been a success.

The first of those World Cup qualifications - achieved at the same venue in 2005 thanks to an unforgettable penalty shootout - set off unbridled delirium.

The second was achieved in the dead of night in Qatar, stretching celebrations over several months until the campaign finally ended on home soil.

The game which secured a third straight World Cup appearance mirrored the entire qualification campaign, taking the vast majority of the time available to secure it.

And the sense of relief at breaking down stoic Iraq - and a host of equally testing opponents over the two-stage campaign - was just as obvious in the dressing-room as those who'd worn champagne or beer showers.

"At the moment, it's a great relief," midfielder Mark Milligan told AAP as the party went on around him. "The last three weeks have been a daunting task. It was never going to be easy. It was always going to come down to the wire. It's been a very intense situation.

"But in hindsight, it's a great achievement. We've worked so hard for each other, but it's still a massive relief."

The Socceroos will take their celebrations public in Sydney today, with a lunchtime meet-and-greet for fans planned at Customs House at the city's Circular Quay.

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- AAP

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