Aussie sport hero Kennedy still in shock after Socceroos win
UPDATE: Just hours after becoming Australia's latest sporting messiah, Socceroos hero Josh Kennedy said the reality of his World Cup-qualifying goal against Iraq on Tuesday night had still not sunk in.
The man once nicknamed Jesus was a bold substitution for star Tim Cahill after 78 minutes, scoring the winner five minutes later and guaranteeing Australia's third successive appearance at the global event, to be held in Brazil next year.
"I think it's still sinking in. I didn't get much sleep after the game - everything was still running through my head," he told delirious fans at Sydney's Customs House.
"I'm sure the next few days it'll sink in with family and friends, and hopefully I can enjoy it."
The Socceroos dominated the shots on target (11-5), but the Iraqis gave the men in gold a fright, and won the possession percentage 52-48.
The Aussies received plenty of criticism in their World Cup qualifying journey, Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop acknowledging the journey had seen plenty of ups and downs.
"But our team has stayed disciplined, they've stayed committed, and they've stayed courageous," he said.
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Needing a win to earn automatic qualification for the 2014 World Cup, a Josh Kennedy header in the 83rd minute gave the home side a nerve-racking 1-0 win over Iraq in Sydney.
Playing his first game in green and gold since November 2011, Kennedy had come on as a substitute just seven minutes earlier, replacing a clearly unhappy Tim Cahill.
The veteran striker had walked off in disbelief and had words with coach Holger Osieck on the sidelines.
But the move proved to be a master stroke with Kennedy heading home a perfect Marco Bresciano cross to send the Socceroos to their third consecutive World Cup.
The result certainly proved harder to secure than expected although Australia could easily have led at half time.
Cahill had two great chances in the first period, one that went wide from close range and another that was brilliantly saved by keeper Noor Sabri.
Sasa Ognenovski also put a header over the cross bar in the 17th minute but in the end the missed chances did not matter.