By Sebastian Hassett
They certainly left it late but Australia are headed to the 2014 World Cup after clinching a dramatic 1-0 win over Iraq at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday night.
The hero of the night was Josh Kennedy, who, in his first Socceroos' appearance for 19 months, headed home the winner from Mark Bresciano's pin-point cross after 82 nerve-wracking minutes.
As Australia won the World Cup qualifying game against Iraq at a sold-out ANZ Stadium on Tuesday night, a local 16-year-old goalkeeper has accepted an offer to join English Club, AFC Bournemouth.
In a busy few weeks for local players leading up to the big game:
■Jordan Holmes, 16, won a two year full-time player/academic goalkeeping scholar- ship which is starting July 1 — just two years after making the switch from striker to goalkeeper.
■Jack Duncan, 19, of Grays Point, left with the Australian team for Turkey to play in the under-20s World Cup.
■Another Sutherland Shire junior, Marc Warren, signed a one-year contract with Sydney FC, joining Peter Triantis of Hurstville and good mate and fellow junior, Blake Powell, in Frank Farina's 2013 Sydney FC squad, and
■The family of De La Salle Caringbah schoolboy Alexander O'Connor, 12, who has a British passport, indicated a possible move to England after AC Milan Academy coach Andre Icardi said he was ready to head overseas.
Jordan Holmes switched to goalkeeper in February 2011, and has since flourished in his new position.
His first representative game as a goalkeeper was for Rockdale FC against Sydney Olympic on March 31 last year and four months later he was invited to the Australian Institute of Sport program for a four-day goalkeeping program.
He was keeper for the Centre of Excellence Tour side of England in October under Paul Hubbard, the under-16s Sutherland Sharks manager, and in December he was selected in the under-16s NSW Institute of Sport team for the Australian National State Institute Challenge.
His NSW team won, and Jordan conceded only one goal in the tournament.
His father Tony Holmes said the English tour exposure had helped him get the scholarship offer.
"There are a lot of scouts out here from England and we'd been contacted since October with offers from other English clubs.
‘‘We decided to go with Bournemouth purely because of their good reputation and development of goalkeepers.
‘‘Also, as it was a scholarship there was the educational side, as well as the football technique side.’’
Holmes said it was a big step for Jordan to decide to leave his family, friends and Australia, but his dream was to play in England.
‘‘Now that dream is closer to reality it’s a bit of a shock how quickly it has all happened.
‘‘The club is in the south, it is similar to Sutherland, so it might help make it an easier transition for him, and he’s going to stay with a host family.’’
Marc Warren, 21, who joins his new Sydney FC teammates at training this week, represented Australia at the FIFA under-20s World Cup in 2011 and, after spells with Sheffield United and the Central Coast Mariners, spent last season in the
Scottish first division with Airdrie United.
The Menai Hawks junior and left-back has been a fan of Sydney FC since the start of the A-League.
“I still remember coming to the games when Dwight Yorke was here and I know a couple of the players so I’m happy to come back,’’ he said.
“I’ve played with Rhyan Grant and Vedran, and grew up with Blakey Powell.
‘‘I’ve spoken to Blake because he’s from the same area as me and told him I’m coming back.”
Head coach Frank Farina said he had known Marc for many years.
‘‘Marc has had two years in Europe so has a bit of experience, he’s a local lad too which is part of the culture that we are trying to build here,’’ Farina said.
The world’s oldest known A-grade player, Sutherland Shire’s Stephan Bergman, 80, will be joined by his daughter and teammates from the Sans Souci over 45A side when the FFA presents him to the crowd at tonight’s Australia-Iraq Cup qualifier at ANZ Stadium.
GET TO THE GAME EARLY
With 80,000 football fans preparing to descend on Stadium Australia tonight for the sold out Socceroos v Iraq FIFA World Cup Qualifier, FFA is urging all fans to make use of public transport to and from the event to ensure you don’t miss a minute of the action.
Travel on trains and buses is included in your match ticket to the game. For more details visit 131500.com.au or call 131 500 or go to http://www.131500.com.au/events/fifa-world-cup-socceroos-v-iraq
Be in your seat at 6.50pm when the Socceroos warm up before kick-off at 7.30pm and see the entertainment starting from 6.10pm including a march past with over 3000 school children, teachers and volunteers from 82 schools from across NSW.
Who do you think will win the Australia v Iraq World Cup qualifier?