What a bizarre game. This World Cup has captured the attention of the Australian public – and if games continue to go down to the wire like that one – it’s likely they’ll be caught up for some time. Harry Kewell finally lived up to the hype. Kalac showed why Schwarzer belongs in the Australian goal mouth. The referee issued three yellow cards to the same player… The game had it all.
Both teams looked much more comfortable chasing qualification than defending it. Neither team acted decisively when they held the upper hand – but Australia continued to play a composed, mature brand of football that I can only attribute to their combined experience playing in top class club competitions, and to the brilliant tactical nouse of Guus Hiddink (who was apparently richly rewarded for taking Australia to the second stage – you’ve got to wonder what he was thinking when Kalac let the ball roll over his body and into the back of the net).
Here’s my player ratings…
1. Zeljko Kalac – Ordinary handling and poor set piece decision making could have cost us our spot in the next round – obviously not match fit. I don’t think I saw him make a save. He was lucky Craig Moore was in position to clear the ball off the line in the last couple of minutes – 3/10
2. Lucas Neill – Again a superb performance – showing maturity, poise and style in the backline. Neill is my favourite Australian player and he’s showing the world what he’s made of – expect a big money transfer offer to come in for him in the weeks following the World Cup – 8.5/10
3. Craig Moore – This guy should still be captain. He’s level headed – and he can score penalties… He was in the right place at the right time to clear the ball off the line at a crucial point in the match. Our 3 man defensive pattern has held up strongly in the tournament so far. 8/10
14. Scott Chipperfield – Made some probing runs down the left hand side, including a beautiful turn and cross which asked questions of the defence. Made way for Kennedy late in the game. Does well balancing attack and defence. 8/10
5. Jason Culina – A favourite son to Guus Hiddink – playing in his club and national teams – always holds his own in the midfield – but sometimes guilty of lazy passing and poor decision making. 7/10.
7. Brett Emerton – Mr Reliable – controlled effort in attack and defence – unluckilly dismissed after receiving one soft yellow card, would have missed the next game anyway because the handball was a clear yellow card offence, he will be missed by Australia. 7.5/10
4. Tim Cahill – was everywhere – looks dangerous on the ball but can be a little volatile. For Australia to do well Cahill must perform. I stand by my statement about his importance to the team. 7.5/10
13. Vince Grella – solid engine room toiler – makes some poor passing decisions but also makes some crucial defensive contributions. He’s a valuable, physical presence anchoring the midfield and keeping tabs on key attacking players. 7/10
21. Mile Sterjovski – I like this guy, makes some great, dangerous runs on the flanks and keeps involved in the play. He’ll be a regular fixture in the green and gold. 7.5/10
10. Harry Kewell – finally delivered on the hype. Kewell looked dangerous all match and consistently troubled the defenders with some neat running, passing and shooting. Was on the spot to capitalise on Bresciano’s brilliant cross to seal our path through to the next stage. 8.5/10
9. Mark Viduka – Viduka is shadowed by several defenders on reputation alone – he never shoots, sometimes bundles loose headers into the keeper’s arms and never really troubles the defence. He’s a master of receiving the ball with his back to goal and looking for an easy pass. He’s penalised too regularly for backing into the defender who’s marking him and holding them off the ball. He’s an imposing physical presence and probably comes back in defence too often. 5.5/10
15. John Aloisi – Australia look instantly more dangerous with two dedicated strikers on the pitch. 7/10
16. Marco Bresciano – provided some spark and forward momentum to the midfield – and a beautifully weighted cross for Harry Kewell’s goal. 7.5/10
Josh Kennedy – He’s a giant. All gangly and stuff – didn’t have long to make an impact but didn’t really make any mistakes either – gives Australia someone to aim at in the box. 7/10
The ref – umm… ordinary effort, someone needs to explain the basics of the game to him. 2 yellow cards = 1 red, handballs in the box = a penalty… Luckily that Croatian guy didn’t do anything special after he should have been dismissed – he musn’t have been too smart though because he managed to fit a third card in right at the death.