Australia 1 - South Africa 0

The 8th of June 1994 and Australias resumption of sporting ties with South Africa took another step with the first soccer match between the countries since the 1950's. Historically South Africa have had by far the better of these encounters, but then again Uruguay is historically among the footballing elite.

The Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide played host to this first of the Nelson Mandela Friendship series matches, New South Wales beat South Australia (hahaha) in a curtain raiser before the big game. Meanwhile in Melbourne New South Wales beat Queensland in the Rugby League (Wahahaha!) so it was shaping up as a good night. The last and only match between these countries in Adelaide ended 8-0 in favour of the visitors. Aussie coach Eddie Thomson remarked, in response to a question before the match, that he wouldn't mind a similar scoreline as long as it went the other way.

The crowd was near capacity at 10203 on a decidedly cold evening and the dew on the ground made for very slippery conditions. The pre-match niceties went smoothly enough and the teams faced off like this...

Australia				South Africa
=========				============
1.  Zeljko Kalac			1.  Steve Crowley
2.  Tony Vidmar				2.  Sizwe Koutang
3.  Mehmet Durakovic			4.  Steve Bhomphela (C)
4.  Milan Ivanovic			14. Andrew Tucker
5.  Alex Tobin				13. Gardiner Searle
6.  Paul Wade (C)			5.  Mark Fish
7.  Damien Mori				9.  Neil Tovey
12. Paul Okon				19. Eric Tinklel
9.  Aurelio Vidmar			10. John Moshoeu
15. Stan Lazaridis			6.  Philemon Masinga
18. Mark Viduka				17. Brendon Augustine

Eddie Thomson				Clive Barker (not the Hellraiser-dude)

Referee: Gerry Connolly (no relation to Billy)

Both sides had players missing. Australia had Slater, Zelic, and van Blerk out of action as well as Zabica which left them with only 2 overseas players in the team. South Africa were without their BIG star 'Doctor' Khumalo (he fixes things in the midfield) thanks to a suspension and an injured defender by the name of Redebe.

Both sides spent the first few minutes sorting themselves out and coming to terms with the conditions. South Africa had only arrived two days earlier and were visibly disorganised. The first shot in anger came 3 minutes into the match when Paul Wade tried a speculatory shot from outside the area and soon after the SA keeper was forced into error when he carried the ball outside the penalty area near the touchline and Damien Mori tried a shot from the pass which gave him a better angle. Basically the Aussies were quicker to settle and it was looking good for us.

The man who would become Australia's best player on the night, Aurelio Vidmar was showing his pace and commitment early. However when he was given a ball to chase by Paul Wade he was closely marked by the SA number 2 and fell. The referee gave the free kick to SA, the only reason I can see is that he believed Aurelio was diving (which isn't entirely out of the question) but I've seen the defenders given a yellow for less.

Still the 20year old Mark Fish was first to show South Africa weren't going to spend the evening in their own half and sent a shot over the bar. Yet the Australian defence and midfield had the better of the play, usually with passing options always open and usually going in the right direction. Kalac almost made a mistake in a high ball at the edge of his area, keen not to repeat the mistake of his counterpart but cleaned up quickly before the forward could make him pay.

At the other end Steve Khomphela conceded a corner in the 11th minute as Tony Vidmar was trying for a cross. Stan Lazaridis tookthe corner and landed it just outside the 6yard box where Aurelio Vidmar was unmarked and headed into the ground and over the head of what must have been the smallest defender in the SA team at the near post. Australia led 1-0.

South Africa immediately gave Kalac a difficult shot to handle, but it seemed that the South Africans were leaving Australia with far too much room in the midfield and Australia has the kind of pace which can exploit that. Furthermore South Africa's keeper had problems with crosses and fumbled many more than he should. Zeljko Kalac was also a bit weak on crosses, on one occasion a cross from out wide gave Philemon Masinga the chance to flick the ball on over Kalac who had come off his line. Masingas marker and a lack of balance helped tokeep the ball well away from goal.

Augustine also pushed forward for South Africa, but his presence was diminished by a lack of service from the guys behind him.

Also a good example of the slippery conditions came when Tony Vidmar was attempting a throw-in and the ball just slipped out and his hands came forward without the ball. It brought a bemused chuckle from the crowd but both sides had difficulties slipping easily but it made for good conditions for sliding tackles. However the match was played in extremely good spirit and only 3 yellow cards were handed out during the match (2 to SA for shirt pulling, and one to Australia for interfering in a free kick). Curiously Aurelio Vidmar was involved in all three incidents which was a measure of his involvement, and he deserved all the accolades he got.

Also Mark Viduka the Socceroo debutant played very well. His contribution in holding up the ball and waiting for the support to come through was great and a few more games should see him become a strong striker for Australia, not bad for an 18-year-old. A lot was expected of him, he is something of a prodigy in the Aussie game and although he scored no goals and did nothing spectacular what he did do was play solidly and that is as much as one can expect.

Mid-way through the first half an outrageous attempt at goal by Tovey (it was damn near half way) resulted in the first corner for South Africa. One which was decidedly less successful than Australia's first. Just to underline the point another of Australias corner was poorly cleared by the South African number 6 and fell to Tony Vidmar who could have picked just about any part of the goal he wanted to score in but he manged to slice the ball just a little too high in his rush of blood shot and the scoreboard was not troubled to change.

Much of the 20 minutes before the half time whistle was spent having Australia push forward, South Africa scrambling it away and being dispossessed in the midfield or by Australia's back men to have the whole thing repeated. Philemon Masinga got South Africas first yellow card with barely 10 minutes to go in the half. South Africa actually managed some more constructive attacks without coming so far as to create any goal scoring chances but then again Australia too had their moves prematurely ended by good defending from Tucker in particular. Australia looked dangerous whenever Aurelio Vidmar had the ball, proving that European experience really does pay in terms of skill acquired by regular professional games.

Just before half time Sizwe Koutang scored South Africas second yellow card again after Aurelio Vidmar was held back off the ball.

During halftime we were treated to an interview with the President of the South African Football association, Stix Mareewa, (done by Alan Gaskell) who said the usual nice things about the Socceroos that visiting dignitaries feel obliged to make. He said that the Socceroos surprised him by their technical skills and the speed at which they played. When prodded about a comparison for the match in progress as against the win against Zambia recently Stix's face said more than his words. He reiterated Australias professional approach to the game was different and then added that the South Africans were without Redebe and hence were experimenting with their defence. The smile on his face as he said this indicated that he knew fully that he was making excuses for his team. He went on to say because of the regular 1 1/2 million players who play the game and because "everybody loves soccer there [South Africa] and I think because of that South Africa is likely to become a major force not only in African football but in World football."

The second half was little different from the first, in the first couple of minutes Australia again got into a good scoring position with Damien Mori corssing the ball low to Viduka, the latter got his boot to the ball but directed it just outside the near post, instead of just inside. He was being tightly marked so he had an excuse, but too often Australia suffer from goalphobia. Some indication however that Eddie Thomson is looking to change that by playing Viduka and Aurelio Vidmar up front. Of course only minutes later Aurelio had too much time to think with the ball at his feet near the goalmouth and kicked into the side netting. Let's hope the scoring boots get worn on Sunday.

John Moshoeu had an attempt on goal which was one of the better ones for South Africa on the night, but was still missing wide. Albeit marginally. When a few minutes later he did get one on target Zeljko Kalac was there to catch it comfortably.

On the other hand Damien Mori got a much more telling shot off at the other end after Aurelio Vidmar squared a pass, but the shot flew over the bar by about half a metre. Another chance gone begging.

South Africa looked to a substitution to better their fortunes by bringing on number 7. Mark Makonyani for number 17. Brendon Augustine who had been fairly anonymous.

I think a lot of South Africas problems stems from their failure to mark the Aussies closely. This allowed the Aussies room to move and let's face it any side that allows Tony Vidmar to get his head to a cross and then have a second go because it went straight up, all without being challenged is not going to win a lot of games. Things went badly awry for the Aussies in the 75th minute. First Aurelio Vidmar was booked for running in front of a free kick as it was taken only a metre away and blocking the pass. Not terribly bad but soon after Zeljko Kalac broke his collarbone when he came forward to punch away a high ball at the edge of the penalty area. It was crowded and he fell akwardly after he punched the ball away and this is a tragic blow.

Zeljko had plans to move to an overseas club and was playing well for the Socceroos (although he had little to do in this match). He will be unable to play for about 6 months. Mark Schwarzer (number 20) who is due to go to Dynamo Dresden after his commitments here are fulfilled replaced him.

At the same time John Markovski (number 17) replaced Damien Mori, who played well enough to be surprised by his removal.

The South Africans also suffered a few bruises, debutant Andrew Tucker was kneed in the kidneys by his captain as they both tried to dispossess Mark Viduka. Unfortunately the referee did not have the benefit of the replay and awarded the free kick against Viduka. Maybe if you fouled your own team-mate in the other teams penalty box you can get a penalty awarded to you. Hmmm....

Neil Tovey also came off second best in a battle for the ball with John Markovski (who is fatter than I remember him).

5 minutes before the end of the game Eric Ramasike (number 22) replaced his namesake Tinkel in the No.19 shirt. I suspect this move had more to do with giving the subs a bit of a go in the match than any real tactical aim. Eric Tinkler was another of the South African debutants.

Just to finish off the match Australia fluffed another beutiful chance, again Aurelio Vidmar was given a pass to put him in the clear and attempted the chip over the advancing keeper. Everything was done perfectly, all that was missing was another 1 1/2 metres on the height of the goal.

Australia 1 - South Africa 0
(A. Vidmar 11)

It's interesting that Aurelio has been Australia's only goalscorer in the past 5 games Australia have played. (1-1 and 0-1 v Argentina {I'm not counting Alex Tobins defelction for the Argies}, 1-1 v Japan, 0-1 v France and now 1-0 v South Africa). Curious too that we have played teams from every FIFA confederation in the past year (Adding Canada and New Zealand to the above list).

Clive Barker said later "No excuses, all credit to the Australians because they were better than us....but the conditions may have been a deciding factor and if we get it a bit hotter on Sunday then I think you will see a much better performance from us."

Cynicism aside I think Clive might have a point. After all despite all of Australia's dominance South Arica lost only by one goal and looked like they were capable of creating a chance or two, although they never really did. If this Doctor Khumalo fellow is half as good as they keep telling us then they will probably play much better. John Moshoeu also looks like a livewire when he isn't being burdened by defensive duties.

Schwarzer will play for Kalac and Olympic and 1993 World Youth Cup keeper Frank Juric will be on the bench. (Johnny Filan must be going out of his mind). Also Paul Okon will not play in the second game, which is a pity since seeing Zelic and Okon on the same team would have been a real treat. What is more Aussie coach Eddie Thomson is now in the US as a guest of FIFA and part of some committee, assistant Les Scheinflug will take care of things in his absence.

As for the South Africans, apart from the return of Khumalo little else has been publicised.

There are plans afoot to make games between these countries more regular and also to extend them to various levels, even womens soccer. This seems like a good idea to me.

Anyway I'd better sign off now, I have a world cup tipping competition to run :-).

written by Thomas Esamie