Tim Cahill scored two second-half goals as Australia beat Japan 2-1 on Wednesday to finish the last round of Asian World Cup qualifying with an unbeaten record.
Both Japan and Australia had already booked their berths for South Africa 2010 ahead of the final qualifier and only top place in Group 1 was at stake.
Australia ended qualifying atop the group with 20 points, five clear of second-place Japan, and conceded only one goal in eight matches.
Everton midfielder Cahill reproduced his performance from the 2006 World Cup group match against Japan in Germany, when he scored twice to guide Australia to a remarkable comeback win.
He did it again in front of an estimated 70,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Japan dominated much of a lackluster first half before unmarked Marcus Tulio Tanaka darted forward to head in a Kengo Nakamura corner in the 40th minute.
The Australians went on the attack early in the second half and were rewarded when Cahill equalized in the 59th after rising in the box to nod in a floated Vince Grella free kick.
Cahill capped a man-of-the-match performance in the 77th when he eluded the Japan defense to gather a Nicky Carle corner and knock the ball past Japan 'keeper Seigo Narazaki.
Cahill was back in the side after skipping last week's match against Bahrain with muscle soreness. Lucas Neill, who missed last week's match while serving a suspension, was also back for Australia.
"It's starting to sink in now. It's been a great campaign by everyone," Neill said. "This is great reward in front of a great crowd."
Australia's best scoring opportunity of the first half came in the 7th minute when a powerful shot from midfielder Mile Sterjovski was deflected over the bar by Narazaki. Cahill attempted to head in the resulting corner moments later, but it went wide.
Japan engineered several attacking forays in the Australian half, but its best chance came in the 19th minute when a Shinji Okazaki strike sailed over the bar after Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer sliced a clearing kick.
Neill prevented another Japanese goal moments before halftime when a he headed away a free kick from the goal line after Nakamura's spot kick beat Schwarzer.
"We had a great campaign," Australia coach Pim Verbeek said. "It's fantastic for Australian football. I'm very proud of my players."
The top two teams in Groups A and B advance directly to the finals. The two third-placed sides meet in a playoff, with the winner of that two-leg tie to take on Oceania champions New Zealand for a ticket to South Africa. The draw for the 2010 finals, being hosted by nine cities across South Africa from June 11-July 11, is set to be held in Cape Town in December.© Wire reports