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Posted by Paddy Higgs on 06/20/2010

Australia's battling performance against Ghana went some way to restoring the faith of a nation. As Paddy Higgs writes, there is much still to be gained from South Africa 2010.

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.


Posted by Bodie Czeladka on 06/21/2010

Paddy Higgs, Another great article you little journalistic genius!

Posted by Paula M on 06/21/2010

Is it always to be the Italians, either through dodgy dives or dodgy decisions, who will rob us of World Cup success??
But your words offer some comfort Paddy and some hope yet.

Posted by Adam on 06/21/2010

Great article, but I have to disagree with you on the red card. If it's a penalty - which it unquestionably was - and the ball was goal-bound and the penalty committed by the only defender standing between the ball and the back of the net, then it's an automatic red card. Harsh, I agree, but that's the rules.

Posted by Andre Salgado on 06/21/2010

Great Article Paddy. Keep them coming. I hope Australia plays against Servia like they did until Kewell sent off. Ohh...and I hope Kennedy doesn't play...he's too bad to be true I think.

Posted by Claire on 06/21/2010

Great article. My gut feeling says we will stand up and "do it" but now we have to rely on other factors to take us that next step. Hopefully future coaches will really look at Australia's type of play and make decisions accordingly

Posted by Jessica on 06/22/2010

It's a shame that one quick - automatic sort of decision can decide a country's result, still I would say it's very common in soccer. Let's all wish aussies the best for the next episode.

Posted by Lace on 06/22/2010

A great article Paddy, your optimism has restored my faith in the socceroo's!

Posted by Borgninho on 06/23/2010

Once again the green and gold glasses obscure the objective view of Harry Kewell's dismissal. It was a fully justified ruling - red card, penalty. Get over it. 100% right, Adam.

Posted by John (Aussie in Shanghai) on 06/23/2010

Paddy - great review. Let's win the game first against Serbia and restore some Aussie pride. OI OI OI

Oh to be over there at the game in South Africa, if Germany were to smash Ghana or if Ghana snags a win. Tell me I'm dreaming!

And what about those All Whites - fantastic - good on the A-league boys too.

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Paddy Higgs is a sports journalist and editor in Melbourne, Australia. He has contributed to a range of football magazines and websites, having followed the Socceroos from their years of World Cup heartbreak to the side's coming of age in 2006 and its bid to become an Asian powerhouse.

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