Cahill the hero

The Socceroos scored arguably the most amazing win in its international history with a come from behind 3-1 win over Japan in their opening match of 2006 World Cup finals in Kaiserslautern.

The Socceroos scored arguably the most amazing win in its international history with a come from behind 3-1 win over Japan in their opening match of 2006 World Cup finals in Kaiserslautern.

It looked lost for the Australians, down 1-0 to a rather controversial goal to Nakamura in the 26th minute, but three goals in eight electrifying and most joyous minutes of play at the end of the match, sealed an historic first ever victory at a World Cup finals for Australia.

While the whole team were heroes, who never gave up the fight, the defining moments of the match came courtesy of substitutes Tim Cahill and John Aloisi.

Guus Hiddink played his substitutions to perfection with Cahill scoring twice, Aloisi adding the third goal and Josh Kennedy-s height proving too much for the tiring Japanese defence to hold out in the second half.

First it was Cahill to write his name into Australian football history books, when he was able to slot home after a scramble from a long throw-in, his shot somehow going through two sets of Japanese legs on its way into the back of the net.

That goal sent the Aussie fans, at least 10,000 of them, into raptures, but little did they realise that the amazing scenes were to continue.

Five minutes later, Cahill put Australia in front when he managed to get free just outside the box and lashed his shot home, and then three minutes later, Aloisi sealed victory when he teased and taunted the Japan defence, ghosting into the box and sliding his shot home inside the far post.

Both sets of fans could hardly believe what they were seeing, but for the travelling Australian fans that never stopped chanting during the entire game, not one had left the stadium and stayed to give the players a tremendous ovation.

It however didn-t appear as though that would be the case, when Australia-s aspirations of going through to the second round, looked to be over to what can only be described as an horrendous error by the Egyptian referee Essam Abd El Fatah.

All too often referees give free kicks for the softest of touches on goalkeepers, but somehow for the Japan goal its amazing how he and his assistant failed to see him taken out of play by Yanagisawa before he could get to a cross from Nakamura. Schwarzer was flat on his back as he watched the ball going into the back of the net, but amazingly the referee awarded the goal much to the astonishment of everyone in the ground, including Hiddink.

“Justice was done,” said Hiddink in the press conference straight after the game. “It was a clear, clear foul in my opinion.

“When you take the weather and dried pitch, then it-s very, very difficult to come back. That-s why I think these guys, they deserve a big compliment the way they kept on going to the end.”

The second half was literally a one-way procession as Australia attacked and Japan sat deep and prepared to counter-attack at speed, which they did effectively on several occasions.

But in truth, Australia-s much maligned defence, held firm with Lucas Neill again showed his maturity in the central role, with an outstanding performance. Everything that came his way, was cleared with authority and precision and alongside him Craig Moore and Scott Chipperfield were ice cool, despite the extremely hot conditions.

Cahill-s introduction for Bresciano in the second half was somewhat surprising given that Bresciano was the catalyst for many good attacks in the first half, but once again Hiddink-s instincts proved him right.

However it was Kennedy-s and Aloisi-s introductions that gave Australia a new dimension, with Kennedy proving adept both in the air and on the ground. It-s amazing to think that he only came on the radar three months ago and he yet could prove to be one of Australia-s key players for the remainder of the tournament.

Almost immediately Kennedy was brought down in a dangerous spot just outside the penalty box, with Japanese keeper Yanaguchi producing a great save to deny Viduka with a stinging shot.

But most of the action came in the final ten minutes and most of it was from Australia as they continuously attacked Japan with long and short balls.

Aloisi forced another save from Yanaguchi, again from a free kick, the ball luckily bouncing over Chipperfield who was set to pounce on the scraps.

But from the ensuing throw-in, the long throw to Kennedy, was missed by Yanaguchi the ball laying on the ground and Cahill making no mistake.

Japan to their credit had several chances after the equaliser, especially a Fukunishi shot that just whistled past the post and a strong claim for a penalty for a Cahill tackle on Komono near the by-line, but this time the referee was on our side and waved it away.

The first half was an even affair with both sides having chances, with Viduka and Bresciano proving constant dangers throughout. Viduka had a double chance in the 6th minute, both blocked by Yanaguchi, while Bresciano also had a good chance saved by Yanaguchi just before Japan-s goal.

Harry Kewell, who started and played out the full 90 minutes, went closest for Australia in the half, just a minute after they scored, his shot skimming the top of the crossbar.

Of a worrying note though was the four yellow cards picked up, with Vince Grella, Craig Moore, Tim Cahill and John Aloisi, all having to be careful for the remainder of the tournament.

Australia now top the group and will be eagerly watching the result of tomorrow-s match between Brazil and Croatia in Berlin. They next play Brazil in Munich on Sunday June 18.

Match Details

Australia 3 (Tim Cahill 84-/89-, John Aloisi 92-) Japan 1 (Nakamura 26-)

Australia Line-up: Mark Schwarzer (gk); Lucas Neill, Craig Moore (Joshua Kennedy 61-), Jason Culina, Brett Emerton, Mark Viduka (c), Harry Kewell, Vince Grella, Scott Chipperfield, Luke Wilkshire (John Aloisi 75-), Marco Bresciano (Tim Cahill 52-) Subs not used: Tony Popovic, Josip Skoko, Stan Lazaridis, Michael Beauchamp, Archie Thompson, , Mile Sterjovski, Mark Milligan, Zeljko Kalac (gk), Ante Covic (gk)

Cautions: Grella (33-), Moore (58-), Cahill (69-), Aloisi (78-)

Referee: Essam Abd El Fatah (Egypt)