Wow, if Graham Arnold's plan was to grind down Team Thai for 60 minutes and then bring in Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill to finish them off, his plan worked to perfection.
Once King Harry hit the field, you could tell momentum had shifted, as he instantly became a threat, creating two chances for the Socceroos within minutes. Then with the Thai defense shifting their focus to Kewell, Arnold put Cahill on, spreading out the defense even more and allowing Viduka the space in the middle he needed to double the advantage. In the eightieth minute, Tim Cahill sent the ball from the left into Viduka, who was waiting in the dead middle of box. The Newcastle striker controlled the ball with his chest while holding off a defender, turned, dribbled a little to his right, banged it off a Thai defender and into the net.
After that goal, the motivation of Thailand's attack was clearly lost. Despite a number of wasted chances leading up to that point, it seemed as if they had all but given up. To make matters worse, Cahill and the team captain hooked up again, as the Everton midfielder lobbed a cross, this time from the right, where it found Viduka's waiting head and subsequently the back of the net. That was the nail in the coffin, the Aussies had set their next round qualification in stone and to put icing on the cake, Kewell planted a runaway goal past the only man he had to beat, the Thai keeper.
The good news is the Socceroos advanced impressively, overcoming homer officials and the home team, to reach the knockout stages. The bad news is they have to play arguably the most talented team in the tourney, Japan, if they want to advance past there. I think having Kewell and Cahill coming off the bench ended up being a good decision, but I'm not sure if that strategy will continue. If there was a weak spot, it was definitely Bresciano, who was complete rubbish this game. Once the attack stopped going through him and started going through Kewell and Cahill, the Aussies were unstoppable.
I believe they'll have Lucas Neill back for the next match, which is a double-edged sword. Their defense had it's lapses today and were lucky not to get punished for them, partly because of Schwarzer's nearly flawless performance, but mainly because Team Thai was luckless. Against Japan, a quicker squad, the Socceroos might not be so fortunate. If Neill can stay in front of the Japanese attack, he should be fine and stay out of trouble, but if he falls behind and has to give chase, watch out, as he is more likely to make a bonehead, red card earning tackle, than he is to make a great play.
If I had to pick a Man of the Match though, and this pains me to say it, it would probably be Cahill, even though he played all of 18 minutes, his energy and vision helped provide the last three goals. Schwarzer definitely deserves recognition as well, but unless a keeper is beyond phenomenal and is the reason his team doesn't get beat, I can't see him being the MotM.