Mark Schwarzer went a long way to securing the No.1 goalkeeper's jersey for Australia's first game of the World Cup Finals against Japan, with a commanding performance in the 1-1 draw with The Netherlands at the De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam.
Schwarzer made a string of outstanding saves in the game to frustrate the Dutch and their passionate fans, especially after Australia was reduced to ten-men following Luke Wilkshire's dismissal with a half an hour to go in the match. Schwarzer though was not the only hero, with every player contributing to the gutsy draw.
The Netherlands virtually camped themselves in Australia's half after Wilkshire's dismissal for a second yellow card, following a tackle from behind on Giovanni van Bronckhorst. However in typical Aussie fashion, the boys dug deep and held on for a deserved draw.
While Schwarzer's performance was the highlight performance for Australia, the other talking point was Australia's equalising goal, which had a few twists and turns. Tim Cahill scored the goal, just minutes after coming as a substitute for Mile Sterjovski, but it is the lead up that will also create some storylines in particular for captain Mark Viduka.
Viduka was rightly awarded a penalty after being held back by his Dutch marker after a neat Wilkshire through ball, although Viduka still managed to get a shot away that hit the top of the bar. After that missed Viduka stepped up to take the spot kick himself, but after a fairly lengthy delay, saw his shot hit the underside of the bar. The ball bounced down and hit Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar; it then hit the post and came back out, bouncing down beautifully for Cahill, who lashed it home.
The Dutch had taken lead after just 10 minutes; Ruud Nistlerooy pouncing after Schwarzer had made a good stop to deny an Ooijer shot.
Australia's first chance came in the 21st minute, with Viduka unable to connect well with a header with Lucas Neill picking up the ball and crossing back to Jason Culina, whose header was wide of goal.
With Robben and van Persie looking dangerous on the flanks, the Dutch were a constant threat, but Australia kept resisting and gradually was able to get itself into the game.
The Dutch thought they had good claims of a penalty when a long through ball hit Grella's arm, but the best they got from it was a corner.
The 34th minute saw Schwarzer twice called into action, firstly pushing van Bommel's acute angled shot away for a corner and then denying Wesley Sneijder a goal with a superb full length finger-tip save.
Australia should have equalised in the 41st minute, when Scott Chipperfield was finally able to get down the left flank and put over the perfect cross for Viduka, whose header from 6 yards out was saved by van der Sar.
Ruud van Nistlerooy should have made Australia pay for that miss a minute later when he was also presented with a great opportunity, but headed wide of the post.
The Dutch came out firing at the start of the second half and saw Schwarzer in the thick of the action again, somehow keeping out a close range effort from one of three Dutch players in the vicinity of the ball.
After five minutes, coach Guus Hiddink decided it was time to unleash Tim Cahill and it proved a master-stroke as he was on hand to smash the equaliser after Viduka's penalty miss.
Wilkshire given red after tackle near the corner flag on van Bronckhorst, although referee Mike Dean showed a yellow card then a red, but it was his first yellow.
Robben should have had Dutch back in front two minutes later, but was again denied by Schwarzer and then another save to deny van Nistlerooy.
Wilkshire's red card should have signalled a Netherlands onslaught, but Australia's resolve and character came to the fore as they doggedly held on wave after wave of attacks and rarely did they get a good look at goal inside the penalty area.
Robin van Persie was the main threat and in the 87th minute forced another good save from Schwarzer after a great faint gave him space to shoot on the edge of the area and then two minutes later, he crashed a free kick against the post, which fortunately for Australia went away from goal.
Asked after the match whether Schwarzer had done enough to secure the No.1 spot, Hiddink was still none to committal.
"We'll see, we'll see," he said. "Both are very good goalies, we'll make a decision in upcoming time." He also praised the team for its second half effort and was especially please with the improvement shown since the Greece game, which is said was a completely different kettle of fish from this game.
"With this performance you could see the team has improved on its tactical discipline," said Hiddink. "It was good to see."