The Qantas Socceroos have been defeated 1-0 by Uruguay in Montevideo this morning in the 1st leg play-off for a berth at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Only a 36th minute goal from Dario Rodriguez separated the teams in an open and attacking match.
Australia, playing an offensive 3-4-3 formation, started brightly dominating large chunks of the first half but they were unable to grab an away goal that may prove to be so valuable at the conclusion of the two match series.
Captain Mark Viduka perhaps coming closest to scoring with, firstly a chip to the back post, and then a thumping free-kick from long range which forced Fabian Carini into a flying save early in the match.
Uruguay came into the match incrementally though most of the danger around the Australian goal was caused by set-pieces with balls played into the penalty area by Alvaro Recoba. It was one such ball whipped into the far post that saw the game's only goal following a dubious free kick awarded after a tangle involving Scott Chipperfield and Diego Perez.
Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was called into action far more in the second half and he didn't put a foot wrong taking a number of dangerous high balls and making a crucial close-range block from Richard Morales with 13 minutes remaining.
Australia's central midfielders Vince Grella and Jason Culina were also outstanding and the latter narrowly failed to score with a shot that rocketed past the post late in the match.
"We dominated the first half completely, but we weren't determined enough to finish it off and we got a sloppy moment on a free-kick," Qantas Socceroo coach Guus Hiddink said on SBS TV.
"We played well, but we had to finish it off because we know they are very dangerous on set pieces.
"They were not in the game, just on set-pieces.
"In my experience, when you control them you have to finish them off.
"I think the Uruguayans will defend in Sydney.
"They know how to defend, that's why I have mixed feelings about the result.
"When you're so dominant, so controlling the game, then we have to finish it off."
Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan looks likely to miss the match in Sydney after being substituted just 17 minutes into the match. No players will miss the match through suspension despite a total of 13 players across the two teams which started today's encounter being a caution away from a one-match ban.
Australia has never won on South American soil drawing just once and losing on nine occasions in a total of 10 international matches played on the continent.