SYDNEY (AFP) – Coach Holger Osieck claimed vindication for his methods after Australia qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a last-gasp header.
"I know what I'm doing," he told reporters after the Socceroos squeezed past Iraq 1-0 before a sellout 80,00 crowd at Stadium Australia on Tuesday night.
"It gave me a beautiful feeling and I must admit that I am very proud that I am part of this."
The German has rarely been popular and came in for plenty of criticism during qualifying when the Socceroos lost to Jordan and drew twice with lowly Oman.
And when Osieck withdrew talisman and top scorer Tim Cahill with 13 minutes left on the clock, there where howls of disapproval. Veteran Cahill showed his displeasure too.
But sub Josh Kennedy saved the day nodding home the 83rd-minute winner from Mark Bresciano's cross that put Australia into their third consecutive finals.
"When you have 10 people, you have 10 different opinions. When you have 100 people, you have 100 different opinions. Why should I care (what people think)?" the coach said.
"I know what I'm doing, I'm close to the players, I know the situations.
"There's a lot of aspects that come into play here but I can assure you that I am pretty much on top of it."
Nagoya Grampus striker Kennedy had barely figured in Osieck's recent teamsheets and struggled to find words post-match.
"I really don't know what to say," the lanky striker admitted. "It's amazing."
The Australian newspaper hailed the coach with the headline "Osieck masterstroke starts the samba".
Osieck said he was ready to party and leave further analysis for later.
"I know there's going to be a tough year ahead of us in order to get ready, but tonight I think we have the right and privilege to enjoy our qualification."
He kept faith in the side that finally found some goals and crushed Jordan 4-0 in Melbourne last week.
But the team had an average age of just over 30 and questions are already being asked about "Dad's Army".
Australia's most capped player Mark Schwarzer will be 41 come next year's showpiece, and may become the oldest keeper to play in a World Cup. Captain Lucas Neill, striker Cahill and midfielder Bresciano will be 34 or older.
"Australia's old guard survived a barrage of criticism ... and emerged with a strong case that, for now at least, that they are still the nation's best," said The Sydney Morning Herald.
"A new chapter of hard work now begins," the daily added. "There is an acceptance the squad needs to lift a gear or two."
Australia next play in the East Asian Cup in July against Asian giants Japan, South Korea and China.