Sun, 25 Sep 2022

CANBERRA, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- A moment of first-half magic from winger Awer Mabil lifted Australia to a 1-0 victory over New Zealand in their last home game before the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

After a slow start, Mabil scored his eighth international goal from distance in the 32nd minute to give the Socceroos the lead over rivals New Zealand on Thursday night.

Mabil, 27, received the ball from Jackson Irvine in midfield, charged down the left wing and cut inside to fire his strike into the bottom corner.

"It's nice to be home again. First goal on home soil - I've been waiting for a long time and it's been my biggest wish, so it's nice to score at home and get a win, of course," Mabil, who in May signed for Spanish outfit Cadiz, said after the match.

"I think I'm on the right track to develop and be at (a) good level when it comes to the World Cup."

Coach Graham Arnold made changes to the starting XI that beat Peru on penalties in June to qualify for the World Cup.

Thursday's game and a second friendly against New Zealand - in Auckland on Sunday - represent the last chance to impress for the Socceroos before Arnold announces his 26-man squad for Qatar.

The visitors had a stronger start on Thursday night, benefiting from mistakes made by Australian center-back Trent Sainsbury, and could have taken the lead through Andre de Jong who shot wide in the 10th minute.

Arnold conceded after the game his team lacked energy - but attributed it to long-haul travel for European-based players, and flagged a younger lineup for Sunday's game.

"I thought we lost the physical battle - the New Zealanders were quite physical - but it's important to remember that the boys just arrived," Arnold said.

"I wanted to reward the boys who gave us a lot of sacrifices and got us through the qualification campaign, and obviously that's the older group.

"But Sunday is for the kids. So what did I learn tonight? They're still working hard. There are some that need to get playing. I rewarded the ones for the campaign that we got through, but now it's about what's in front of us."

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