THE priest is lurking and the last rites are ready to be issued, but Australia’s World Cup campaign is yet to draw its last breath.
Thus, it is too early to begin the post mortem on the Socceroos’ South Africa adventure. One last test lies ahead of the Socceroos and their fate.
They must – of course – do so without Harry Kewell, whose final World Cup playing memory could likely be his dismissal.
If Tim Cahill’s red card against Germany was the blow that doubled Australia over, then Kewell’s dismissal was the one that brought it to its knees.
Penalty it may have been. Red card it wasn’t. The only reaction Kewell mustered while in the gun of Jonathan Mensah’s shot was to attempt to push his chest out and his pull his elbows back.
Regardless, Australia’s performance after going down to 10 men has been rightly feted.
Everything missing in the game against Germany was present against Ghana.
So wrong in his selection against the Germans, Socceroos coach Verbeek restored his formation to his usual 4-5-1.
It was effective, even when Australia went a man down and was forced to dig deep.
Verbeek’s substitutions were just as apt, even if Mark Bresciano tended to disagree at his withdrawal, and again showed that all in the Australian camp is far from rosy.
Verbeek will never be fully redeemed for taking such a defeatist approach in the Socceroos’ opening game, particularly when Serbia showed what was possible four days later.
But his Socceroos have clearly been re-energised by the Ghana draw and, even if Australia does not progress to the Round of 16, at least it may not limp forlornly out of the competition.
Against Ghana, Lucas Neill reminded all of the rock he had been in the 2006 World Cup. Carl Valeri yapped at Ghanaian heels in a way which the watching Vince Grella would have approved. Brett Emerton reminded all of his status as one of Australia’s finest ever products. Brett Holman finally came of age in the eyes of Australian supporters.
The measure of difference in Australia’s performances was reflected in the response of its fans.
Outrage greeted the Socceroos futile showing against the Europeans; pride, the dogged display against the Africans.
The time will come soon enough to talk of Australia’s performances in South Africa. Of a new coach. Of a new team.
For now, lets us look only towards Serbia.
A place in the Round of 16 might be a bridge too far for the Socceroos.
But the result against Ghana showed that there is plenty to be won and lost in the 90 minutes before that is decided.