Australia 1 - South Africa 0

It was by no means the greatest performance by the Socceroos, but neither was it a bad one.

Expectations are high after the England win last year, and while most were predicting a big win for Australia, this was always going to be a tricky game for the Socceroos and overall they came through it very well with a hard-fought, yet well executed victory.

A first half goal from the very impressive midfielder Marco Bresciano was what it took for the Socceroos to defeat South Africa, who could possibly feel aggrieved they didn¹t get something from the game.

³This was not one of our better games, but I¹m reasonably satisfied with that performance,² Farina said after the match. ³You sometimes have to graft out results and with the talent and class we¹ve got, I know we can do better.²

Farina indeed signalled his intentions by fielding perhaps his strongest line-up with quite a few notables staying on the bench, leaving in no doubt the strength and depth of this Australian team when all players are fit and available.

There were many pleasing facets to come from this Socceroo display, with Farina agreeing that the defensive effort was one of the most positive aspects of the performance.

³We were defensively very solid,² he said. ³They caught us a lot on the counter-attack, especially in the second half, but all the defenders handled the situations that arose throughout the match very well.²

Indeed, the central defensive pairing of Craig Moore and Tony Popovic worked very well together, providing a defensive platform that was solid, cohesive and confident at all times.

Blackburn fullback Lucas Neill was equally adept at both going forward to link up in attacks as well as fulfilling his defensive duties. In a less familiar role (to what he plays at Birmingham City), Stan Lazaridis played at left full back and proved a great success here, continuing his usual attacking forays along the wing and covering well when required in defence.

On the performance of Lazaridis, Farina said, ³I feel that Stan has had his better games for Australia playing in that deeper role and he did exceptionally well for us there tonight.²

South Africa did look dangerous on their quick counter-attacking moves, but the Socceroos were always able to nullify these as players dropped back with speed and covered where and when necessary.

Although South Africa were kept to only a few good goal scoring opportunities, goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer rose to every occasion when called upon. Indeed, he prevented South Africa from equalising with a brilliant save low to his right from a shot by Mbulelo Mabizela ten minutes into the second half. He commanded his area with confidence and aplomb; and will certainly be difficult to dislodge as Australia¹s first choice in this position.

The centre midfield duo of Josip Skoko and Marco Bresciano did remarkably well. Skoko was magnificent, winning possession and breaking down South African attacks at every opportunity. He tracked back throughout the match and was a continual thorn in the side of the Bafana Bafana who would constantly find themselves dispossessed by his tenacious tackling.

Bresciano made a greater impact offensively, linking up well with both Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka throughout the game in what is proving a fantastic attacking triumvirate. They seem to have an almost telepathic understanding between them and this bodes extremely well for the future if all three can stay injury free and available for selection.

The goal volleyed home by Bresciano exemplified this understanding as Viduka climbed inside the box to chest and control a throw-in which he then flicked over his head to the oncoming Bresciano who had timed his run to perfection.

Kewell was at his usual best, mesmerising the opposition with his mazy running and deft and incisive passing.

Both Brett Emerton and Scott Chipperfield did a fine job on either side of midfield, and while he found himself adrift and not involved enough in the game at times, Chipperfield does however have a knack of getting into goalscoring positions and was unlucky not to have a goal through his sheer persistence soon after Bresciano had put us in front.

Emerton proved better at not only being able to attract the ball, but in also his ability to use it more effectively.

Farina made four substitutes in the second half, resting Kewell and Viduka for David Zdrilic and John Aloisi respectively after 65 minutes, and then replacing Bresciano for debutant Tim Cahill; and Emerton for Mile Sterjovski with fifteen minutes remaining.

On the substitutes, Farina said that he was very happy with them and how they performed, but that as a rule, he generally does not like to make so many changes, saying ³At this stage of the season, a lot of the boys are tired so you are tempted to make quite a few substitutions in these types of matches. But equally, you need to be able to see how players react and perform when they are fatigued.²

Millwall¹s Tim Cahill was especially pleased saying, ³I received my first cap in a little presentation in the dressing room and there are no words to describe how I feel. It was very emotional.²

Farina also added that he was very appreciative of the fact that 16,100 fans attended the game, saying that it is a great indicator that London can be a great base for the European Socceroos.

Overall, this performance again shows the great depth and quality that the Socceroos possess. Farina should be pleased that with the games against Turkey and then the all-important qualifiers, that Australia can call upon a wide range of experience and talent. And when adding the elements of team spirit, determination and resolve to the equation, it augurs well for the tough games ahead.

written by Peter Konsto