Australia 0 - Chile 1

There's a lot of pessimism about and there are accusations that these games are meaningless. At the same time there was criticism that the previous, ill-fated, World Cup campaign lacked preparation. You can only please some of the people some of the time.

Chile were on a World tour which had taken them to Hong Kong and New Zealand prior to their appearance in Melbourne and had done poorly. They were without their major stars, most notably Salas and Zamorano were missing, so in effect Chile were looking to sort out the probables from the possibles ahead of their World Cup appearance. Chile will go on to play against England on Wednesday.

Australia were again fielding a home-based side which serves two puposes. First it gives the local talent a chance to impress, and a few of them are deserving of such an opportunity which would otherwise come less easily. Secondly it allows the overseas based players a chance to play for their clubs and stop their managers moaning about incessant absences due to International committments. Stan Lazaridis scored a brilliant goal for West Ham in a 1-0 win over Newcastle to underline the point, and there have been rumours Harry Kewell is considering retiring from the Socceroos in order to keep George Graham at Leeds happy. Well perhaps he is also tired of 30 hour flights to Australia, though he's not actually made many of those....

Oh yes, Chile. Melbourne was wet, it rained throughout the game, and it was an insistent rain. It was for this reason that the sliding tackles were more harsh than most of them were intended because there's a lot of slide on a wet pitch. Noteworthy too that the Chilean support in the crowd comprised almost half the attendees and supplied the bulk of the voice. Not that this in any way excuses what must rank among one of the most ineffective performances by Australia, one in which I cannot recall a single threatening shot on goal the entire match long.

Of course some credit must go to the Chileans who were doubtlessly in no mood to do anything but win after drawing New Zealand 0-0.

The Chileans were causing Australia some defensive concerns pretty much from the outset and when you play what looks on paper like a 6-2-2 formation you have to expect a lot of defending. Chile should have gone in front in the 16th minute when a ball on the left flank was played to Sierra and Kalac came in an attempt to close him down. Sierra was too quick and passed the ball to Carreno who had the ball at his feet and an empty net beckoning. The real challenge would be to miss, and Carreno was equal to it. The ball sliced off his instep and wide of the post.

However the whole move illustrated how easily a run from deep could open up the Australian defence and a matter of minutes later, as 2 players were retreating from an offside position 2 others rushed past the defence and a pass from Sierra left Kalac facing two attackers. Kalac did what any self respecting keeper would to and that is to dive at the feet of the man with the ball. I'm sure he would have conceded the penalty had the ball not rolled to Acuna who put the ball into the net unopposed.

Then in the 26th minute it should have been 3-0 when a corner was swung in by Chile tempting Kalac to come out but eluding him regardless thus giving Margas a header which he put into the net. The goal was disallowed for some pushing in the box which I either failed to see or did not exist. Either way Chile were a bit unlucky.

Perhaps they sensed that given Australia had failed to trouble them so far they just used the rest of the game as more of a training exercise than any serious assault on the scoreline. Players like Trimboli and Mendez are skilful and capable of creating something but they need space and time and the Chilean defence was quite adept at crowding out any attack. They were helped by an appaling lack of quality passing by Australia in the Chilean third of the field. Balls were either overhit, misdirected or intercepted in an attempt to get Australians into a potential scoring position, it's a familiar story.

The remainder of the game was notable only for the 2 red cards each of which came from nearly identical tackles in which the recipient of the red card went for a sliding tackle which went wrong. I don't believe either player had any malicious intent, it was not a violent game. Just a dull one. I daresay even if Australia had won I would have enjoyed it only marginally more.

I'm not sure whether to dread Wednesday with a fear of more of the same or to approach the game with hope safe in the knowledge that it can only get better from here.

written by Thomas Esamie