Thanks to the greatest goal in Australia’s World Cup history, the Socceroos got close to Holland losing 3-2 in a superbly entertaining contest in Porto Alegre.
In the two sides' second group stage game at the World Cup, a first half goal to Arjen Robben was cancelled out by Tim Cahill’s extraordinary strike 60 seconds later. His volley set to go down in Australian sporting history, though it was soured by a yellow card that sees Cahill miss the final group game against Spain.
Mile Jedinak’s penalty in the second half put the Aussies 2-1 up before Robin van Persie smashed home a brilliant goal to equalise and substitute Memphis Depay grabbed a third for Holland later in the second half.
In perfect conditions at Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, the first half began positively for Australia with a clearly more confident start than the Chile opener five days earlier.
The first real opportunity came after 15 minutes with Matt Leckie picking up a loose pass inside the Dutch half to push forward and set up Mark Bresciano whose subsequent shot was deflected for a corner.
The Dutch created their first good chance from an Aussie turnover but Wesley Sneijder’s ball through was too heavy for Robben.
It was a warning and a minute later Robben profited from a cheap turnover, broke on the counter, powered through to the box and slotted home past a trailing leg and under Mat Ryan.
But within seconds Tim Cahill scored what could be a goal of the tournament with an unbelievable strike.
McGowan’s long angled cross found the Socceroo talisman in the box and his first time volley - while moving away from the ball as it came over his shoulder - rocketed in off the underside of the bar and in.
It was without doubt the greatest ever Socceroo goal at World Cup level as the fans erupted in the stands and back home.
And it could’ve been 2-1 with a great opportunity opened up by Leckie’s cut back but Bresciano powered over the bar.
As the Aussies continued to press, Spiranovic then found himself with space in the box from a set piece but scuffed a golden opportunity to double the score.
Oar was put through for another chance but his shot was blocked in the box as the Australians grew in confidence.
A yellow for Cahill with a late challenge just on half-time meant he will miss the Spain game – one of the few low points in a stunning first half for the Socceroos who went into the break 1-1.
The Dutch moved to a 4-3-3 in the second half as they turned the screws.
Van Persie was soon in the book will miss the final group game against Chile.
Sneijder’s long range shot went close as the game changed in Holland’s favour.
But the Aussies showed they still meant business.
The influential Bresciano was subbed off for Oliver Bozanic on 50 minutes and it had immediate effects with the Lucern FC man winning a penalty for a handball.
Mile Jedinak stepped up and coolly sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 2-1.
And it could’ve been 3-1 with shambolic Dutch defending resulting in a turnover but Cahill’s dink through was just too over hit and McKay’s was forced too wide to cause any danger.
Australia would rue that chance with van Persie finding space in the box just minutes later to smash home a superb equaliser.
It was end-to-end stuff in one of the best games at the World Cup.
More terrible defending from Holland in the box and Oar had an excellent chance to score.
Inexplicably, he chose to cross in the box when he should have shot and the Dutch survived somehow.
Again the Socceroos were made to pay minutes later with Depay’s swerving shot deceiving Ryan in goal to put the Dutch in the lead 3-2 with around 20 minutes left.
Desperate defending kept Holland out moments later as the Oranje powered home with a glut of chances.
Ryan was down brilliantly to keep out a de Jong effort with the Australians under pressure in the final stages of the game.
Hyundai A-League golden boot Adam Taggart came on for Oar as the Socceroos looked to press for an equaliser in the final stages of a pulsating contest.
Fatigue set in but the Australians continued to push against a Holland side looking to hold on to their slim advantage.
Ryan saved a certain fourth goal in time added on to deny the Dutch in a frantic finish.
But it was too late. The Australians lost but won many admirers with a stunning display of courage and style.
Holland 3 (Robben 20, van Persie 57, 68 Depay)
Australia 2 (Cahill 21, Jedinak 54)
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