The Socceroos have come through unscathed after going down to Croatia 1-0 in a feisty final hit-out before they meet Chile in their World Cup opener next week.
In a game shown live on Brazilian TV ahead of Croatia’s own tournament opener against Brazil, the Socceroos showed plenty of promising signs though they created precious few clear chances in a game that rarely hit the heights.
The Socceroos bossed possession, looking sharp and had good structure against a Croatian side clearly not in top gear in front of a small crowd at the Pituaca stadium in Salvador.
But Croatia came into the game in the second half and took the lead shortly after the break courtesy of Hull City’s Nikica Jelavic, though there was a hint of offside.
The Socceroos started the match with a 4-2-3-1.
On the right as an attacking midfielder was Dario Vidosic with Tommy Oar as a ten and Matt Leckie on the left. Tim Cahill started up-front.
Across the backline, Alex Wilkinson partnered Matt Spiranovic in the centre, with Jason Davidson and fit-again Ivan Franjic as full backs and Mat Ryan in goal.
Captain Mile Jedinak was alongside Mark Milligan in front of the back four.
The Socceroos began the better of the two sides. Composed in possession and first to the ball, Australia clearly showed the benefits of over a week of boot camp in Brazil.
The competitive nature of the clash resulted in Croatian striker Eduardo needing treatment from a Jason Davidson tackle from behind, which clearly wound-up Croatia’s coach Niko Kovac.
But it was Croatia with the first clear chance after a burst down the Aussie right. Eduardo was found in space in the box, and his low angled shot was saved by Ryan though subsequently called offside.
Genuine chances were hard to come by though it was the Croatians who had marginally the better half chances with some angled balls into the box.
However, before the break Vidosic did have the ball in the net after more good work from Davidson, but it was called offside.
Croatia had a chance seconds before the break but Wilkinson defended brilliantly to head clear under pressure in the box from an excellent deep cross.
0-0 at the break but a corner in the first minute of the second half offered an opportunity but Cahill’s header was tame.
Ben Halloran came on after 55 minutes for Vidosic and a minute late Jedinak’s foul on Eduardo offered the Croats a chance just outside the box - however Dario Srna’s set-piece sailed over.
Two minutes later and Australia failed to deal with Real Madrid’s Luka Modric in the box and Jelavic was left with too much space in the box to poke home from close range.
A goal down and Halloran was soon causing problems and after a foul on him Oar’s floating free kick was missed by everyone and it grazed Stipe Pletikosa’s post.
Bresciano came on with 25 minutes to go for Cahill while Oar and Milligan came off with ten to go with Matt McKay and James Troisi coming on.
Troisi had a chance from Bresciano’s set piece but couldn’t get any power on his header as the game entered its final few minutes.
Hyundai A-League Golden Boot Adam Taggart arrived with five minutes of regular time left but was unable to trouble the scoreboard.
Croatia 1 (Jelavic 57m) Australia 0
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