Australia 3 Japan 1
Australia: Cahill 84 89, Aloisi 92
Japan: Nakamura 26
Two late goals from Tim Cahill and an Aloisi strike in extra time saw Australia come back from being a goal down to romp home to a 3-1 victory over Japan.
It was a contest Australia dominated from the start, and the Japanese goal was a sucker-punch cross that beat everyone including Shwarzer, the Aussie goalkeeper. There were hints of an obstruction by two Japanese players on the keeper but in honesty, he was hopelessly out of position and could not have made it to the ball anyways.
Another highlight of the match was the amount of cards shown by the Egyptian ref – a total of 7 cards (Australia 4, Japan 3). You can’t expect refs to officiate with equal standards but at the very least you can avoid such mishaps by asking refs to respect the spirit of the law and not just the letter of it. Some of the cards were deserved but the others were unusually harsh (like those of Crouch and Gerrard in the England game).
As Dixon said to me during the game, you should implement these ‘new guidelines‘ during the qualifiers to allow refs and players to get more accustomed to them. Introducing them a couple of weeks before the World Cup doesn’t make much sense, even if the refs have gone through a stringent training period.
All hats off to Cahill though. His first goal was a poacher’s strike when the Japanese keeper came out too far and the ball fell to his feet. In the second, he hit an excellent strike with the defenders holding back, expecting him to make a run. The Japanese defense were also to be blamed for the third goal, with the defender going the wrong way and giving Aloisi space to run in and shoot.
In between, the ref missed a penalty in the Australian box when Cahill fouled a Japanese player and was bloody lucky not to get a card or have the ref call a penalty (surprising considering the number of cards he showed).
By the way, the ref is a military pilot and is a strict disciplinarian. Shows, eh?
Australia draw first blood in Group F, and must fancy themselves against Croatia (22nd June), a match that will most definitely determine who goes out of the group with Brazil.