Bahrain 0 - Australia 1

Most of the attention in the post-match dissection of yesterday morning's 1-0 win in Manama has been on how bad and lucky the Socceroos were.

It is all true of course.

The Socceroos were clearly not at the races. No doubt about it, this wasn't a performance they'll want to remember in a hurry.

A neat eight pass build up in the opening minute was about as good as it got for Pim's men, until of course Mark Schwarzer pumped a late goal-kick long, and Bahrain, for once, panicked. Tragedy for the hosts.

Otherwise it was all the desperate Al-Ahmar (the Reds), who are now very much in the red, and will need to scrap for every point in a group that is now shaping up as a battle between the bottom three for the play-off spot.

Bahrain and Uzbekistan, having played one game less than Qatar, are three points behind Bruno Metsu's men, and on the evidence we've seen, that spot is very much alive.

Certainly Milan Macala can consider himself extremely unfortunate not to have joined Metsu on four points, such was his side's dominance over the Roos.

Only a lack of surety inside the box cost Bahrain. Nowhere was this more obvious than midway through the second half, when the left-sided flier Salman Isa squared a ball in behind the Socceroos defence for naturalised Nigerian Jaycee John, who somehow missed it.

Maybe it was the bumpy pitch, but this lack of polish inside the box ultimately was punished.

It was harsh on John, who had otherwise been outstanding, popping up left, right and centrally to give Australia's back four one hell of a headache, perhaps the biggest headache since Sebastian Quintana troubled them in the last phase in June.

The fact Lucas Neill was a part of this back four (he wasn't on deck in the above-mentioned game) speaks volumes of John's eye-catching performance, and he wasn't alone.

Supporting him from deeper in midfield was fellow Nigerian ring-in Abdulla Fatadi, demonstrating outstanding mobility, a physical presence and high technical qualities, while the left-sided central midfielder Mahmood Abdulrahman (according to Simon Hill he is known to his team-mates as Ringo due to a striking resemblance to The Beatles star) was everywhere.

Elsewhere, the Hubail brothers, Ala'a and Mohamed were busy and forward-thinking.

Valeri and Culina simply couldn't live with the flood of Bahraini attackers bombing on. It was a very attacking Macala formation and the mode was to get the ball forward early, get men forward early, hold up ball and bring the numbers into the game. Sound technique and combination play meant his side were in total control.

Often the way forward was out wide, and the Socceroos just couldn't stay compact. Early the damage was done down the right, where Fatadi, Mohamed Hubail and Jaycee gave the game-shy Carney and Coyne a working over.

Later the attention was switched to the left, where John, Isa and Fawzi Ayesh had a go at Wilkshire.

All the while the fullbacks failed to get much defensive support from the advanced midfielders Kewell, Bresciano and Cahill, who all seemed very flat, while Kennedy, isolated, struggled with the physical presence of the twin central defender Mohamed Husain and Sayed Mohammed, who picked off everything in the air and took advantage of Kennedy's lack of touch by always mopping up the second ball.

Both were outstanding, until of course Husain stuffed up deep into stoppages.

On this evidence, Bahrain, if they keep their heads up, can still entertain hope of a play-off spot. Certainly Qatar have slipped from the high standards of their match-day one win over the Uzbeks, and the latest hiding at home to the Samurai Blue was not pretty.

The Socceroos meanwhile, riding three straight wins, sit remarkably close to a second consecutive Cup. Thirty two years was the last wait and we all had to wait right till the end, the last team to qualify for Germany.

Now, with some luck, just over three years on, a win in Tokyo and the Socceroos would just about be the first through to South Africa.

Pinch me and tell me this isn't a dream.

written by Tony Tannous on The Roundball Analyst