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Socceroos Good, But Not Good Enough
Tim Cahill of Australia celebrating his goal
A fantastic second half performance by Australia saw them net two goals to beat Serbia 2-1 at the Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit on Wednesday night.
However, despite the victory it was not good enough to see them through to the last round of 16. Serbia also missed out on the next round due to their loss.
Serbia were by far the better side in the opening 45 minutes as they controlled possession and dictated terms in the middle of the park. The Socceroos, in stark contrast, struggled to string their passes together and often gifted possession to the Europeans with some poor passing.
Milos Krasic almost gave his side the perfect start in the sixth minute when the tricky winger beat his marker down the right flank before firing in a powerful shot at the near post. Mark Schwarzer, however, was alert and made a good save palming the ball wide for a corner kick.
Krasic should have broken the deadlock six minutes later after a quick counter attack through the centre saw the Serbian striker go past the Australian goalie, but only succeeding in blasting the ball wide from a narrow angle with an empty goal at his mercy.
Then in the 22nd minute a mistake in defence by the Socceroos allowed Branislav Ivanovic to burst into the 18-yard area and unleashed a powerful shot from six yards out. Schwarzer, although, was in fine form pulling off a magnificent save to keep the score level.
Australia created their first good chance of the game in the 32nd minute when Mark Bresciano floated in a perfect cross from the left and Tim Cahill beat his marker to the ball before heading it just wide.
The second 45 minutes saw a reversal of roles as the Australians dominated the second half and seemed to find their stride. With Cahill at the heart of the Australian attack they pressed forward and were justly rewarded with the opening goal in the 69th minute.
And the man to grab the goal was none other than Cahill himself. A cross was curled in from the right side and the Everton striker showed real aerial prowess to powerfully head home from 12-yards out, giving the keeper no chance, 1-0.
Things got even worse for the Serbians when they went a second goal behind four minutes later. Bret Holman drove forward from the half way line with real gusto before picking his spot and unleashing with a beautiful shot from about 25 yards out that found the bottom right-hand corner, 2-0.
With the game almost sealed the Serbians gave themselves some hope when they pulled a goal back six minutes for time. Zoran Tosic broke down the right flank and then cut inside to fire a powerful shot goalwards. Schwarzer, who thus far was having a brilliant night between the sticks, parried the ball straight into the path of Marko Pantelic who fired home from a couple of yards out, 2-1.
This set-up a frantic final five minutes, but in the end Australia were able to hang onto their lead and won the game 2-1. Still, despite the win both the Socceroos and Serbia failed to qualify for the last round of 16.