Japan 1 - Australia 1

Well the big Arch Stadium in Hiroshima wasn't the happiest of hunting grounds for the Socceroos. Unfortunately I was not able to see this game on TV, the problem being that it was not being telecast. You're all in luck because this means I won't launch into one of my long winded dissertations on the game.

The Aussie line-up was : Zabica (Kalac 40th), Ivanovic, Durakovic, T. Vidmar, Zelic, Wade (c), Tobin, A. Vidmar, van Blerk, Veart.

Zabica suffered a serious injury to his knee as he made a diving save to prevent the Japanese going 2 up. Zabica will need immediate surgery for the ruptured right anterior cruciate ligament. He was ably replaced by towering Zeljko Kalac (203cms) for the remainder of the game but coach Eddie Thomson has put out a call to Mark Schwarzer, who is currently in South Korea with his club Marconi-Fairfield. Eddie wants the more 'experienced' Schwarzer for the game against France on Thursday. Schwarzer is also close to finalising a move to German club side Dynamo Dresden.

Right back to the game. Well basically the new Japanese coach...erm actually I mean the new coach of Japan, Roberto Falcao, who is Brazilian really has put together a good team and seems to have done a bit of homework. That said there was an element of luck in the goal by Japan. Tetsuya Asano of the J-Leagues Urawa Red Diamonds team blasted home a 30 metre free kick in the 10th minute. Goalkeeper Zabica was unsighted and although he got to the ball it slipped through his hands. Personally I think a shot from 30 metres, even by a team coached by a Brazilian, should always be stopped. Then again I didn't actually see it.

From then on the Aussies pushed forward and were caught out at the back on more than one occasion. Slater and Wade were prominent in attack, which is surprising since Wadey is... how can I put this?...past it. The Japanese were utilising their speed on the break and Asano went close to adding his second but his shot was wide. J-League pin-up boy Kazuyoshi Miura also got a chance when he waeved through the defence but ballooned his attempt over the bar, and 40000 spectators sat down again in disappointment. Actually one source tells me there were 40000 and another says 27350. I guess it's all about this new math.

Finally in the 68th minute the Aussie pressure paid off, alas we too had a bit of luck however this seems only fair. A long straight pass from Milan Ivanovic set Aurelio Vidmar into the clear, he beat the advancing goalie Kazuya Maekawa but defender Yoshihiro Natsuka had retreated to the goaline and cleared the ball in the nick of time, but only as far as Carl Veart. Carl headed the ball back towards Vidmar who made no mistake the second time. It remained that way for the rest of the match, I'm not sure either team wanted to go on with the fight or whether the draw made both of them happy.

The only problem is that Australia must now beat France to have a decent shot at winning the Cup.

written by Thomas Esamie