Italy 1 - Australia 0

Australia's return to the venue where they had recorded their only world cup finals win was a gallant but ultimately an unsuccessful one as they went down one nil to Italy in Kaiserslautern.

The match saw Australia have 59% of possession and play against just 10 men for the final 40 minutes but that wasn't enough as a clumsy Lucas Neill tackle on Fabio Grosso in the 93'+ minute resulted in the Australian team home - thanks to a Francesco Totti penalty kick.

Three noticeable omissions from the Australian warm up before the match were the suspended Brett Emerton, the injured Harry Kewell (who arrived on crutches) and the dropped Zeljko Kalac. Australian coach Guus Hiddink opting to start Wilkshire and Sterjovski in this knock out fixture.

On a wet field heavy from overnight rain but on a glorious 23C day Australia met Italy for the very first time in international football. Australia kicked off and did an excellent job for the first 2 minutes completely keeping the ball from the Italians before a Cahill shot went wide for the Italians to gain possession.

The opening exchanges were hesitant by both teams but the Italians had an excellent first touch and you sensed whenever they moved forward something may have happened.

At 11 minutes it did when Alberto Gilardino made an attempt to head home a crossed ball but Lucas Neill was quickly across to challenge the header and force it wide. Neill and Scott Chipperfield were really standing up in a match that required 100% attention for the full duration.

Australia was guilty of giving up too much space in midfield, which the Italians used to push fully to the defensive line of the Socceroos. 20 minutes gone saw the Italians again challenging the Australian goal, this time teaming up with Gilardino was the 194 cm Luca Toni who shot towards goal and with Craig Moore slipping before he had the chance to head it, it was up to the recalled Mark Schwarzer to tip it over the bar.

Just two minutes later Italy had their best chance of the half when again Gilardino and Toni teamed up on goal, Toni with the shot and Schwarzer saved with his diving legs.

Australia weren't without their genuine chances as well as Scott Chipperfield found himself in unfamiliar territory when an Australian free kick was poorly cleared by the Italians and Chipperfield unmarked and with a clear sight on goal had the ball at his feet. Chipperfield shot hard but straight at Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who fumbled but regathered before Mark Viduka could pounce on the ball.

The 34 minutes mark saw another Italian raid on goal with Simone Perrotta crossing to the towering Toni only to see him head high. Chipperfield given the job to mark Toni some 14 cm (Ed. ?) taller.

The first half saw Italy have some good opportunities on goal but Australia had control of the ball, albeit with little penetration, and often Italy would totally flood their defensive third of the field.

Three minutes after the break Italy again found themselves with a chance when Vincenzo Iaquinta crossed from the right to find Perrotta who quickly passed on to Toni, but he could only shoot high from in front.

The game turned Australia's way when Marco Materazzi was shown a red card for sabotaging and obvious goal scoring opportunity in fouling Marco Bresciano. The tackle was some 20 yards from goal with other defenders around and using the standard of refereeing applied so far in the tournament Materazzi could feel he was dealt with harshly by the Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantelejo, the same referee who was in charge for Australia's final qualifier against Uruguay.

Scott Chipperfield was enjoying his newly given freedom to move further up field and forced an excellent two fisted save from Buffon on 58 minutes - unfortunately for Australia though there was no one to finish the spilt ball.

Australia dominated Italy for the next 30 minutes keeping the ball for long periods whilst the Italians were happy to play six across the back whenever and wherever Australia had possession. Italian coach Marcello Lippi showed his hand as early as the 55th minute when he pulled off attacking forward Luca Toni, who was the only man looking like scoring for Italy, and replaced him with defender Andrea Barzagli.

The final 10 minutes saw the injection of John Aloisi for the improved Mile Sterjovski as Australia went looking for the winning goal. A good corner delivered by Bresciano found Tim Cahill's head who climbed higher then his marker but could only manage to head over the goal. Australian captain in possible his last match for Australia must have thought he could win the match for his team when Aloisi drove a low cross straight across the goal area just as Viduka went to finish the ball Buffon dived and took the ball off his boots.

The additional time board went up, 3 minutes remaining and Australia and Italy would be heading for extra time, Australia with 2 subs up its sleeve and Italy with none.

But with 2 minutes and 40 seconds of that allotted time passed Lucas Neill seemed to lie down infront of Fabio Grosso to affect a tackle. Grosso played the ball around Neill then proceed to run straight at the Australians body ensuring that he clipped as he did Neill remained unmoved and made no movement towards the player.

But that was enough for the Spanish referee not wanting to go into extra time in the warm conditions and Italy were awarded a penalty kick.

Roma's Totti stepped up and shot hard and to Schwarzer's right and whilst Schwarzer dived the right way there was no way that he was going to reach the well taken penalty.

Fulltime sounded and Italy progress to the quarter final in a manner that could only impress their most die hard of supporters. Australia was guttered after having such advantages throughout the game, they fell into the trap of not scoring when they had the chance.

After the game Assistant coach Graham Arnold said he could see 10-12 of the current team retiring from international football at this stage whilst some players were adamant that Australia had been on the wrong end of some poor refereeing performances throughout the tournament.

All in all Australia's record at this world cup does not read well, with 1 win 1 draw and 2 losses, but the team progressed to the knock-out stage and how they played was received well by all that saw them (which must be put down to the players of course and the departing coach Guus Hiddink).

written by Trent Dickeson