Neill makes his point

Lucas Neill's Australia moved a step closer to the 2010 FIFA World Cup with a hard-fought goalless draw with Japan in Yokohama.

Despite spending long periods of the match pinned in their own half by the home side at the Saitama Stadium, captain Neill and his team held on for a valuable point in their Asia qualifying fourth round Group A match. The point keeps the Socceroos three points above second-placed Japan halfway through the eight-match group stage.

West Ham United skipper Neill, who began his 47th international cap at right-back before switching to the centre of defence midway through the second half, expertly led the Australian rearguard as his side secured a fourth consecutive clean-sheet to remain on course for a place in South Africa.

Behind Neill, Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer produced a number of fine saves to keep Australia in the game. Meanwhile, former Hammers forward Richard Garcia, an FA Youth Cup winner in 1999, earned his third cap as a 64th-minute substitute for NEC Nijmegen's Richard Holman.

Australia return to competitive action on 1 April, when they entertain Uzbekistan in Sydney. Pim Verbeek's side complete their qualification campaign with a trip to Qatar and home matches against Bahrain and Japan in June. Should they finish in the top-two in their five-team group, they will qualify for their second straight World Cup finals.