Socceroos earn FIFA’s gratitude for Confederations Cup opener
goal feast



By
Ross Stapleton

Earlier
this morning in Frankfurt, the Socceroos gave Confederations Cup host Germany a
real contest when Australia did its bit to launch the tournament with attacking
flair as we went down with all guns blazing in a pulsating 4-3 opening round
loss.


When
Australia
was originally drawn to open the Cup against the host nation, FIFA could only
hope we might fulfill one of two vital “goals”, yet managed both.
That is to do the right thing and play our part in an expected German win to
get the host nation’s football public fired up for a charge at winning the
Cup. The second was much tougher. To not get done like a dinner by the
current World Cup runners-up. Any kind of thrashing would only serve to make
the victory ring a little hollow against what would then be seen as markedly
inferior opposition.

But
the Socceroos delivered to FIFA an absolute belter of an opening contest that
started to rain goals from early in the game and left a German victory only
absolutely certain at the very end. However, the seven goal result also had a
lot to do with two leaky defences that said more about the inadequacies of both
sides in their back half than the free scoring ways of their sides going
forward. But even two teams lacking essential strengths can still turn on a
welcome and stylish contest and that’s exactly what they offered a global TV
audience who didn’t have to yawn through a pedestrian 6-0 shellacking or a
boring ultra defensive 1-0 arm wrestle.

For
FIFA president Sepp Blatter pictured smiling broadly during the game, that’s
yet another favor he now owes Australia
for more than playing its part in getting the FIFA commercial love child off to
such an entertaining flyer.

Germany
as only to be expected despite its recent poor showings, opened the scoring
after only 17 minutes; but just four minutes later Josip Skoko who has long
been an under-valued midfield general squared up the game with a scarcely
believable “worm burning” free-kick. His surface to grass missile didn’t seem
to so much burrow under the defensive wall in front of goal, as look to scuttle
past a couple of very jumpy Germans! Yet no sooner were the Socceroos
done with celebrating their get out of jail equal opportunity card, than just
two minutes later in what was a very lame Aussie goal mouth defensive effort,
the Germans scored again.

But
the Socceroos maintained a fierce resolve and in the 31st minute
Blatter must have been cautiously “high-fiving” Aussie officials when John
Aloisi struck with little angle to work from wide of the left goal post running
on to a Skoko through ball, that went bouncing past the keeper into the right
hand side of the goal to again see the scores level at 2-2. Fancy writing the
script that suggested pre-game boring Germany and outgunned Australia could
knock two goals each into the back of the net in less than a quarter
of an hour, barely 30 minutes into the game? It must have been about then
that all of Germany was wondering if the footballing might of their republic
was now heading for an ignominious first round loss at the feet of the flying
Kangaroos? Now doubt Blatter was having similar thoughts of a nightmare
upset too!

But
come the second half normal transmission was resumed as goalkeeper Mark
Schwarzer kept us in the game with some tremendous saves, before inevitably the
man the German press had pinned their hopes on, Michael Ballack scored from the
penalty sport in the 60th minute, then Lukas Podolski struck what
would be the winner on the 88th minute to put the game beyond the
Socceroos grasp.

Yet
there was one final twist at the death in injury time when John Aloisi
pulled one back to leave the vanquished Socceroos departing the game with heads
held high, but now probably needing at least a win and possibly also a draw in
their next two games to have a realistic chance of making the semi-finals in
this dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup in Germany. But thanks to Australia today
that served it right up to the hosts, fans were given an exciting preview of
what lies ahead hopefully for both countries in 2006?

Australia’s next match is against Argentina in Nuremberg on Sunday when it can be seen live
on SBS at 4.45am.