Brave Socceroos go out fighting

By James Maasdorp

Updated June 24, 2010 09:31:00

Australia has bowed out of the World Cup in South Africa despite a brave 2-1 win over Serbia at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

Germany's 1-0 win over Ghana saw it top Group D with Ghana finishing as runner-up on goal difference ahead of the Socceroos.

Ultimately, Australia's 4-0 hammering at the hands of Germany cost it dearly as it finished third in the group.

Tim Cahill and Brett Holman got the goals in the second half against Serbia before a Mark Schwarzer howler handed their opponents a consolation goal.

On 69 minutes, Cahill showcased his awesome leaping ability to get above Nemanja Vidic and head in Luke Wilkshire's booming cross.

Australian dreams were then truly circling when Holman unleashed a divine thunderbolt from distance into the bottom corner just four minutes later.

A loose header eventually found Holman, who rampaged through the middle and, completely unattended by Serbia's defenders, cracked a belter which bounced once before beating the keeper.

The double-salvo left Serbia shellshocked after it had earlier dominated proceedings with a slick passing game.

But the Europeans got a goal back through Marko Pantelic, when Schwarzer spilled Zoran Tosic's long-range effort.

Coach Pim Verbeek praised his team's performance, but admitted the loss to Germany had proved costly.

"They stood up when everybody thought it was over," he said.

"A great performance [in the 1-1 draw] against Ghana, today we played all or nothing," he said.

"The moment we lost 4-0 we knew we had to win two games. In the end the goal difference made a difference and we can only blame ourselves for that.

"I'm disappointed for the players because they gave everything in the last two-and-a-half years to go to the final 16," added Verbeek, who now leaves his post to take up a junior coaching role with Morocco.

Serbia had dominated much of the match with an excellent possession game, using diagonal balls across the pitch to open up spaces down the Socceroos' flanks.

Playing on the counter, Mark Bresciano looked Australia's most likely source of goals as he bent a free kick on 59 minutes with real venom, forcing a save from Vladimir Stojkovic.

Minutes later Bresciano forced the issue again, drawing a save from distance again, but an offside Cahill was unable to reach the rebound.

Australia's attacking focal point Josh Kennedy had a torrid time up front as Serb defender Nemanja Vidic won the physical battle to repeatedly muscle the forward off the ball.

Under the cosh

A frenetic start to the match saw Milos Krasic go down easily in the box under the attentions of David Carney, but no penalty was rewarded and the blonde winger only received persistent jeering from the crowd as reward.

Australia had its heart in its mouth when Krasic had the beating of Carney and broke with pace, but Schwarzer came off his line to force the winger wide and balloon his shot over.

Serbia was looking to impose its height advantage over the Socceroos with Vidic and Branislav Ivanovic defending well at the back, while midfielders targeted the head of giant striker Nikola Zigic.

The Serbs broke at pace as good cross found Ivanovic free in the box, but his volley forced an outstanding one-hand save from Mark Schwarzer.

Australia's first chance of the match came on 31 minutes when Brett Emerton countered with a surging run, before Mark Bresciano crossed for Tim Cahill who nodded his effort wide.

But the Socceroos were let off the hook again when Ivanovic, completely free on the right, crossed for Zigic, who flashed his header wide from six yards.

Australia: 2 (T Cahill 69', B Holman 73')

Serbia: 1 (M Pantelic 84')

Tags: sport, football, socceroos, world-cup, australia, south-africa, serbia

First posted June 24, 2010 06:24:00

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