SOCCEROOS coach Ange Postecoglou went into this morning’s clash against Germany wanting his team to continue their climb up the international football ladder. His counterpart Joachim Loew was seeking a tough contest that would get Germany’s World Cup defence back on track.
A heart-pumping 2-2 draw gave them both what they were hoping for.
In a game that Australia could have easily won, the Socceroos took up where they left off at the Asian Cup, doing their country proud in a whole-hearted display that proved once again that under Postecoglou they will not take a backward step against any team in the world.
They have never lacked heart, but their most recent performances have shown that skill and cohesion have been added to the mix.
In fact, if not for the lack of the kind of ruthless finisher that Germany and the other top nations seems to grow on trees, they could have been out of sight by half-time.
If Socceroos’ supporters ever needed evidence of just how much the team is going to miss Tim Cahill when he finally hangs up the boots, it came in the first 20 minutes of the match.
Twice the Aussies had the World Cup champions on the ropes, and twice they lacked the finishing touch that the injured Cahill has provided so many times in his career.
The Germans began the match looking out of sorts. Australia, in contrast was full of running, pressuring their opponents into giving up easy possession.
Jason Davidson and Mathew Leckie in particular looked sharp. In the opening minutes clever footwork from Davidson earned a corner. Leckie got his head to the ball but it was away to the left.
After nine minutes it was again Davidson and Leckie who combined to almost get Australia on the board. A super ball back to Leckie allowed the Belgium-based winger to turn German defender Benedikt Howedes inside out, only to shoot across the face of goal.
At the 12 minute mark Brisbane Roar defender Matt McKay put the ball onto Nathan Burns’ head, but his shot went wide to the right.
Both were the kinds of chances that Cahill has been turning into green and gold goals for the past 11 years – most famously on this same ground against Japan at the 2006 World Cup.
The longer Australia went without scoring, the more Germany was able to play itself into the contest.
World Cup goal-scoring hero Mario Gotze and team-mate Jonas Hector began to find space down the German left wing, giving Socceroos defender Ivan Franjic a busy time.
On the other side of the field Luke Devere was feeling a long way from Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. At the 16th minute mark he gave up possession easily and Germany’s attacking midfielder Marco Reus put the ball into the back of the net, only to be ruled off-side.
Less than a minute later Reus would not be denied by the lineman’s flag or any Australian defender. This time it was Jedinak who opened the door, passing directly to his opposition captain Sami Khedira who fed Reus for the score.
It was almost a case of déjà vu a minute later when Jedinak again showed the effects of rustiness brought on by injury and suspension, cutting out the middleman and handing Reus a clean run at goal. Only pressure from goal-keeper Mat Ryan saved a 2-nil scoreline.
The half-time break didn’t change the script. Five minutes after play resumed Australia earned a free kick 30 metres out on the right. Troisi ran a decoy as Jedinak blasted a right foot shot over the wall and into the net for a 2-1 lead.
For the next 40 minutes the world champs throw everything at the Asian champs, and visa versa. It was a harem scarem contest that went from one end of the field to the other.Four times in the half Ryan pulled off saves that varied from acrobatic to brave. His German counterpart Ron-Robert Zieler wasn’t as busy, but only because the Australians lacked the finishing power and finesse to put the final ball on target.
The leveller finally came after 81 minutes of frantic action, Andre Schurrle threading his way through Australian defenders in front of goal and laying off for Inter Milan forward Lukas Podolski to thump it into the back of the net.
Like two tired boxers both teams kept slugging away at each other under the final whistle without managing to land the knockout blow.
Postecoglou has made it clear he has no interest in “credible losses”. This might not have been a win, but it was still one of Australia-best-ever performances.