Socceroos down but not out

Beaten, but not disgraced was the best way to describe Australia’s 2-0 loss to Brazil that sets up a mouth-watering clash with Croatia in their final group match, to see which team is to make the second phase of the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

Beaten, but not disgraced was the best way to describe Australia-s 2-0 loss to Brazil that sets up a mouth-watering clash with Croatia in their final group match, to see which team is to make the second phase of the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

Second half goals to Adriano and Fred secured Brazil a place in the second round, with Australia-s match against Croatia to decide which team will follow them to the next phase. Earlier in the day, Japan recovered from its shattering loss to Australia by drawing 0-0 with Croatia in Nuremburg.

Australia now needs just a draw in the match with Croatia to advance to the second phase. They have a one-goal better goal difference than Croatia.

Australia will look back on this game with the current world champions with some regrets as they more than matched Brazil and went close to equalising before substitute Fred scored a flattering second after 90 minutes.

Despite the loss, Australia showed they belong on the world stage, but lacked a touch of finesse in the final third. Hiddink said as much when asked about the team-s performance after the game.

“I-m, of course, not happy with the result,” said Hiddink. “But the way the team acted during almost the whole game; if you consider where we come from, we can be proud of the team and how they performed and how their attitude was.”

“I think the little bit of difference was they are a little bit more level when they are coming into the box.”

“In the second half, we had two or three good opportunities, but we failed to make a goal.”

The key moment of the match came four minutes after the break, when Adriano scored with a left foot shot from edge of the penalty area. It was however not without a touch of controversy, with Ronaldo who supplied him with the pass, looking suspiciously offside when he received a pass from Ronaldinho.

Their second goal in the 89th minute knocked the stuffing out of Australia-s late rally, with Fred scoring the easiest of goals after Robinho had a shot deflected onto the post by Mark Schwarzer the ball coming back across to Fred, who tapped in.

But Australia also had it chances and many of them again came from the substitutes, although Viduka went close with two efforts in the last ten minutes.

Bresciano, who came on for Tony Popovic (calf injury) five minutes before half time, had a great chance when he was played clear after a neat move involving Mark Viduka and Tim Cahill. But as he raced into the penalty area, he hesitated and allowed Juan to make a desperate tackle.

This started a period of dominance for Australia as they peppered the Brazil penalty area.

A minute later, Mile Sterjovski, a surprise inclusion at the expense of Bresciano in the starting line-up, then fired over the bar.

At the same time Harry Kewell was introduced at the expense of Cahill and he should have made an immediate impact, when faced with an open goal after Dida dropped and attempted clearance by Carlos, at the Liverpool midfielders feet. However Kewell hit the shot over the bar.

Then Emerton shot just wide of the post after a surging run.

Kewell had the Australian fans believing their was an equaliser in the 68th minute, when he pounced on a bad pass by Ze Roberto. Noticing Dida off his line, Kewell hit a 30-metre lob that agonisingly went just over the bar with Dida beaten.

With 20 minutes to go and Australia pushing more players forward, the game opened up with the introduction of Robinho for Ronaldo proving significant.

Within a minute of coming on he was wide with a shot and then with Brazil putting enormous pressure on the Australian goal, he flicked an effort just wide.

Bresciano then brought out a fine save from Dida, the AC Milan keeper diving full stretch to keep out the Australian midfielder-s well struck side-foot volley.

Kaka almost made it 2-0 in the 83rd minute, when he headed against the crossbar from a corner, but two chances for Viduka summed up his and Australia-s luck.

In the 84th minute, he glanced a Bresciano free kick inches wide with Dida beaten and then two minutes later he pounced on some Brazilian hesitancy from a John Aloisi header to lob a shot over Dida, which again cleared the crossbar.

But Australia-s fight back was curtailed with Fred-s tap in the 89th minute.

Hiddink made three changes to the team that beat Japan, with two-goal hero Tim Cahill, midfielder Mile Sterjovski and defender Tony Popovic coming in to the team at the expense of Harry Kewell, Marco Bresciano and Luke Wilkshire.

It was a fairly nervous start by Australia, with Kaka almost punishing them in the 3rd minute with a shot that whistled past Mark Schwarzer-s right post.

However a Cahill shot, albeit well wide, a minute later seemed to settle Australia down and a minute later Viduka had shot, which Dida saved after it took a slight deflection.

Australia though were frustrating the Brazilians with their defence again superbly led by Lucas Neill, keeping its shape and making it difficult for Adriano, Ronaldo, Kaka and Ronaldinho to find too much space.

Neither side had too many clear cut chances in the half with most decent efforts coming from long range.

Australia was patient in attack with Sterjovski and Chipperfield several times getting the better of Cafu on the left, but Viduka, while holding the ball up well often found himself isolated up front.

Australia-s best effort came right on half time, when Bresciano, curled his effort from 20 metres over the crossbar.

Match Details

Brazil 2 (Adriano 49-, Fred 90-) Australia 0

Australia line-up: Mark Schwarzer (gk); Lucas Neill, Craig Moore (John Aloisi 69-), Tim Cahill (Harry Kewell 56-), Jason Culina, Tony Popovic (Marco Bresciano 41-), Brett Emerton, Mark Viduka (c); Vince Grella, Scott Chipperfield, Mile Sterjovski Subs not used: Josip Skoko, Stan Lazaridis, Ante Covic (gk), Michael Beauchamp, Archie Thompson, Zeljko Kalac (gk), Joshua Kennedy, Luke Wilkshire

Cautions: Emerton (13-), Culina (39-)

Brazil line-up: Dida (gk); Cafu (c), Lucio, Juan, Emerson (Gilberto Silva 72-), Roberto Carlos, Adriano (Fred 88-), Kaka, Ronaldo (Robinho 72-), Ronaldinho, Ze Roberto Subs not used: Rogerio Ceni (gk); Cicinho, Luisao, Cris, Gilberto, Mineiro, Juninho Pernambucano, Ricardinho, Julio Cesar (gk)

Cautions: Cafu (29-), Ronaldo (31-), Robinho (83-)

Referee: Markus Merk (GER)