Socceroos in fighting draw

Tim Cahill.Coach rues late penaltyPlayer ratings

Australia’s chances of going to the 2014 World Cup remain alive after the Socceroos recorded a 1-1 draw with Japan at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Socceroos looked to be on track for an incredible win following Tommy Oar’s 82nd-minute goal, only for Japan to pick up an injury-time penalty that was coolly converted by Keisuke Honda.

That strike was enough to send them to Brazil, sparking scenes of enormous jubilation around the stadium at the full-time whistle. Japan is the first side to qualify of any country, outside the World Cup host nation.

To be fair on the hosts, it was no less than they deserved after dominating the match and the lucky nature of Oar’s original goal.

His cross floated over the poorly placed Eiji Kawashima, who mis-read the flight of the ball. In the finest of margins, the ball squeezed above Kawashima’s hapless outstretched palm and under the crossbar.

The goal shocked 62,172 of the most feverish fans in Asian football, who were seemingly seeing their dream of qualifying at home wrecked before their eyes.

But Matt McKay’s handball late in the play, as adjudged by Bahraini referee Nawaf Shukralla, was enough to earn him a yellow card and send Honda to the spot. He duly smashed it past Mark Schwarzer, who was otherwise excellent in goal for Australia.

Now Australia has two matches at home in the next two weeks against Jordan and Iraq to seal its own destiny and join the Blue Samurai in Brazil.

Holger Osieck decided not to risk the injured Alex Brosque (groin) and Mile Jedinak (ankle) going into this game, instead calling up Oar and Mark Milligan. Mark Bresciano, Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski made up the remaining changes from the 2-2 draw against Oman in Sydney.

Japan’s only pre-game query hung over an injury to captain Makoto Hasebe and whether the rock star-like Honda would start, but coach Alberto Zaccheroni used them both.

The pre-match predictions of Australia playing long-ball and Japan keeping possession were played out straight from kick-off, as Lucas Neill launched the ball immediately forward.

Seconds later, the hosts established their modus operandi for playing the game on their terms, and on the deck, which they did for most of the evening.

The defensive midfield pairing of Yasuhito Endo and Hasebe would try to claim the ball and then find one of the attacking midfield trio, either of the two Shinji’s – Kagawa on the left or Okazaki on the right, or Honda in the middle.

However, the Japanese showed themselves up for matching the physicality of the visitors, never taking a backwards step when it came to challenge.

Schwarzer was busy early and then pulled off a world-class reflex effort from close range to deny Shinji Kagawa midway through the half.

The Manchester United forward managed to win the ball inside the box and scooped a shot that seemed goal-bound, only for Schwarzer to get his right palm to the ball as his body moved to the left.

However, the man causing the most danger early was Honda. His ability to drift between the lines was causing all sorts of headaches for Milligan and Bresciano.

Yet Australia started to come into the game just before the half-hour mark. It began playing the ball on the floor and one through ball from Holman created a magnificent chance for Robbie Kruse, only for a great stop by Kawashima.

Though both Kagawa and Okazaki fired off two effort as half-time closed in, the Australians had achieved their first goal – getting to the break without conceding.

More nervous moments would follow as Honda and Kagawa looked to impose their creative will around the penalty box. They were brilliant after the break and demonstrated the gulf in technical class between the two teams.

But Oar’s accidental effort gave Australia hope of a miracle win and they very nearly held on. Though a draw is helpful, and may ultimately prove vital, the margin for error in the next fortnight is non-existent.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.

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