Australia 2 - South Korea 1

If this is Wednesday it must be Brisbane

The early game saw Norway walk all over New Zealand in the second half and despite a penalty save by Jason Batty the Kiwis gave up 3 goals without being able to score any for themselves. Goals from Skammelsrud and Flo were added to by an own goal though I'm not sure who eventually got 'the honour'.

South Korea, unlike Norway and Australia (and to a lesser extent New Zealand) are sporting a near full strength side and on paper are the toughest opponents the Aussies will face in this series. The only change the Australians made to the initial lineup is putting in Enes for the injured Genc.

The early indicators were that the skilled and quick Koreans would cause quite a few Australian headaches. Australia in turn held posession well in their own half but had serious problems making inroads in the opposing half.

It was quite early that Kim Sang Hoon made sure that he kicked the ball away on Australian free kicks and he was spoken to by the ref about this. The Koreans are clearly learning the subtler arts of football but appear to have glossed over the very important proviso to share the fouls around. More on that later. For now the first shot in anger came from the South Koreans when that man Hoon was badly fouled by the reliably crap David Zdrilic coming back to contest a ball in midfield. The Korean captain Hong Myung Bo took the long range attempt which beat everyone up to, but luckily not including, Kalac who scooped up the low drive. Mark Bosnich must be feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

Around 12 minutes in Kim Sang Hoon got his yellow card for a crude and decidedly uneccessary challenge from behind on Paul Trimboli, you get the feeling that the Ref was ready for whatever transgression Mr Hoon cared to make with that card.

The first corner was awarded to South Korea too, which tells you something about the flow of the game, but it sailed to the far post and beyond it for the want of a Korean head. Hooker chased the ball down, tried to be cute in faking a Korean out (Who happened to be Hoon again...I assure you I know the other players names...) and naturally lost posession which resulted in a real shot at goal by Yoo Sang Chul. Sailed over the bar, but it seems lessons are not easily learned. Anyone care to recall Ivanovic trying to be cute in clearing a ball with Maradona around? No, I didn't think so.

Also I must mention the outrageous bit of skill in which a Korean (sadly I cannot give the man due credit because I am not clear who it was) controlled a high ball, pirouetted and systematically beat two Australian players (whose names I have been paid to withhold), beat the same two again (they gave me a _lot_ of money) and then a further player before his pass forward resulted in an offside call. It was fantastic. Thank you whoever the hell it was, and please don't do it to us again.

Australia finally got a corner after 30 minutes, taken by Foster which found Tobin but the scramble resulted in a partial clearance and then a second corner which went less well that the first. However it marked the start of Australia's ascendancy, Korea had shown what they intended and Australia had finally managed to live with it and retaliate. Up until then no serious shot at goal was made by Australia...always the cross had been headed away, the last pass had been astray.

Australias goal came after about 37 minutes from a very nice passage of play which was a nice change. Zdrilic passed to Foster, the latter being more or less in the centre of the Korean half. Foster then passed to Trimboli to the left who then tried to release Zdrilic who had made a run at the defence. The ball almost, but according to the linesman not quite, crossed the goal line before Zdrilic got the ball to Tobin near the flag who immediately put the ball back in the centre to Trimboli just outside the 6-yard-box. With at least 3 Korean defenders in the vicinity Trimboli controlled and slid the ball to the nearby Bingley who placed the ball past the keeper into the side netting at the far post. Beautiful stuff. Made more beatiful still for that fact that after Zdrilic retrieved the ball back to Tobin he had the good sense to stay off the field of play and avoid any nasty offside considerations for the ensuing play.

Only 3 minutes later Korea had a golden chance to equalise on a break which fell to Ko Jung Su whose shot lacked the power to beat Kalac, instead the ball was just palmed aside and left for a defender to mop up. That defender? Matthew Bingley. I call him "Golden Boy".

Halftime came and went, as it does, and the second half was only minutes old, if that, when the turning point came. Australia were awarded a free kick comfortably away from the penalty area and the usual think happened, defenders retreat and the free kick ball hogs come to decide what happens. Well it appears young No2 Kim Sang Hoon got this idea that he should stand over the ball as well, so up he comes from the penalty area and stands in front of the ball. Referee Micallef wasn't too impressed, showed him a yellow card for being a wanker and a red one for having to be reminded of it from early in the first half. I believe that until that stage these were the only cards of the match. So for the second half it was 11 on 10 for Australia and accordingly South Korea were hampered in their play by this dismissal.

Korea were frazzled, and as if to prove it conceded an indirect free kick just inside the corner of their penalty area due to their goalkeeper trying to kick Trajanovski's head off his shoulders. In truth it seemed without malice and Trajanovski was also being a little cavalier in chasing the high bouncing ball. Fosters strike was just wide of the near post but Korea were backfooting badly. But, I hasten to add, not backfooting enough not to threaten goal anymore. However the threat came more from free kicks and other set plays than open play, which was the precise opposite from the first half.

A glancing Trimboli header and a dipping Trajanovski volley both failed to find the target but you sensed it was only a matter of time before Australia scored. The catalyst for that goal was Alistair Edwards, a professional footballer. Honestly on the form he showed in this game he'd have to be picked ahead of some of the non-performing attackers. Then again I'm not a coach. After a neat interception by Golden Boy at the defensive end Australia maneouvered upfield and eventually Tapai crossed to a poorly populated penalty area and the ball was recovered by Zdrilic who passed it to Golden Boy and the second cross was deflected into the path of Edwards who made no mistake with his first time shot (taken thigh height) to score Australias second.

A mad lungefest at the ball barely outside Australia's penalty area gifted the South Koreans a free kick, eventually against Tobin. The whole routine of set up the wall, ref point at whistle in the international sign of "wait til I blow this before you try anything", move the wall back and then see it shuffle forward was finally ended with a masterly shot by Ha Seok Ju who lifted the ball over the wall (which didn't jump) and inside Kalac's near post. It left everyone rooted to the spot, including me whan I saw this.

Buoyed by this unlikely turn of events Korea, despite their numerical shortcomings, raised their efforts in a rousing last 15 or so minutes. The excitement was aided by notable failures to score by Tapai, Foster and Golden Boy in that it kept Korea within 1 goal of the draw. In the end none of it ever came to much in the way of goalscoring chances.

For mine the white shoed Golden Boy was the standout of the Australian Team, at least in so far that he would have done his chances no harm with a sound all over the field display. Kris Trajanovski, the other player with coloured shoes (his were red) fared less well but played a vital role in linking the midfield with the attack. Korea, having been right royally stuffed at the recent Asian Cup played very well and considering their coach has been in charge for less time than Venables of Australia they certainly seem to be on the right track to recovery.

Now just Norway to go...

written by Thomas Esamie