Friday, May 21, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Italy-Australia (2006)

Football has reached the entire world, but some parts have been reached later than others. Oceania has been a region dominated by rugby, and football has been peripheral and largely dominated by the region’s largest country, Australia. However, due to the region’s poor performance in world cup history, Oceania has historically only had a play-off place to play for, usually against an Asian or South American country. It was usually Australia that had to play it, and usually they lost, although they were steadily improving as some Australian players were getting experience in Europe and the game slowly grew in popularity. For the 2006 campaign the Australian football federation hired the outstanding Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, to lead the team to the World Cup. And over two matches against the number five of South America, Uruguay, Australia managed to qualify to its first World Cup since 1974 (incidentally, also in Germany).
The team was a healthy mixture of players of diverse backgrounds and with experience from European leagues: this included an experienced defence with the Middlesborough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer on goal, Crystal Palace defender Tony Popovic, Blackburn right back Lucas Neill, and Craig Moore from Glasgow Rangers. The team also had very skilled strikers in the form of Millwall’s Tim Cahill, Osasuna’s John Aloisi and the Leeds United strikers Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell (the latter was nevertheless injured for this match).
The Australians had surprised everyone by unexpectedly going through on second spot in a rather difficult group: they had opened by defeating Japan 3-1, and had in the second match put up an excellent fight against the Brazilian world champions, but still lost 2-0. In their last match they managed 2-2 against Croatia in a dramatic match, which effectively put them in the second round, where Italy was awaiting.
Italy was looking strong without forcing it. They had won their group by defeating Ghana and the Czech republic and tying the USA. As usual, the team coached by Marcelo Lippi did not play any exciting football, but had some outstanding players on all positions, particularly in defence that included Inter’s Fabio Cannavaro (that year to be given the prize as World Player of the year) and Marco Materazzi, Juventus’ Gianlucca Zambrotta and the excellent defensive midfielder from AC Milan Gennaro Gattuso. In midfield Italy had the elegant AS Roma player Francesco Totti, although he surprisingly did not start in for this match, but was replaced by Juventus’ Alessandro Del Piero.
The first half of the match was very equal with both teams standing well in defence. The best chances went to the Italian strikers Luca Toni from Brescia and Verona’s Alberto Gilardino. Toni came very close to scoring on a header after only three minutes, and an excellent turn-around shot that was well saved by Schwarzer. Gilardino had a good volley that the Australian goallie also saved. With 0-0 at halftime Italy should probably have been in the lead, but Australia had not played badly.
Five minutes into the second half things changed: Marco Materazzi was given a very harsh red card by the Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo for a tackle on Marco Bresciano. One man down, Italy lost some of its power going forward, and Australia started to dominate possession. However, it proved difficult for the Australians to create chances confronted with the excellent Italian defenders. The FC Basel midfielder Scott Chipperfield had a good shot that was saved by Gianluca Buffon, but otherwise the Asutralians seemed afraid to risk more in attack by opening too much in the back against deadly Italian counter-attacks. Thus, the match went into a relative stalemate and everyone was expecting that the match would end goalless. But in the fourth minute of added time, Fabio Grosso got through on the left side, and entered the Australian penalty box. Lucas Neill tried to tackle rather clumsily and Fabio Grosso immediately let himself fall in the area. Perhaps it was to compensate for the harsh dismissal against Materazzi, but the Spanish referee gave the Italians the penalty kick from a situation that would not normally be given.
Francesco Totti, who had come in to replace Del Piero in the second half, kept his head cool and scored. The referee blew the whistle to end the match a few seconds later. Italy was in the quarter-finals.
Australia was out, but Italy in fact went on to become world champions, after defeating Ukraine, the German hosts, and France in the final. Australia’s feat was in the face of this all the more impressive, and perhaps a premonition of things to come for the “socceroos” (and may I add that they should change this stupid name).

Match Stats:
  • 26th June, 2006, Fritz Walter Stadium, Kaiserslautern
  • Attendance: 46,000
  • Referee: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain)
Italy-Australia 1-0
Goals:1-0 Totti (pen) (90+5)

Italy: Buffon; Cannavaro, Grosso, Gatuso, Zambrotta, Perrotta, Pirlo, Matterazzi (RC, 50), Del Piero (Totti), Toni (Barzagli), Gilardino (Iaquinta)
Australia: Schwarzer; Neill, Moore, Cahill, Culina, Viduka, Grella, Chipperfield, Wilkshire, Sterjovski (Aloisi), Bresciano


The Claus said...

Here Erik,
Some of my comments about USSF D-2 Pro League (NASL/USL)

The competitiveness of USSF D-2 Pro League (NASL/USL)

The big players in the league: Montreal Impact who won the championship last year, Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers who are leaving for MLS next year are obviously some of the big teams in the D-2 league.
Other teams that were mentioned in the topic of conversation were Austin Aztex, Rochester Rhinos and Puerto Rico Islanders.

As expected the "top teams" at this point of the season are the league leaders. However it is still very close and very tight for the top 8 playoff qualifying positions with only 7 points separating the top 8 teams, also taking into account that not all teams have player the same amount of games so far.

So far this season there have been some very close games between the top teams and against the other teams in the league: Puerto Rico 0 Montreal 1, Montreal 1 Vancouver 1, Austin 2 FC Tampa 2, Miami FC 0 Vancouver 0, AC St Louis 1 Portland 1, just to name some of the matches in May.

Not to take anything away from any of the teams but who would have thought that Baltimore would beat Rochester? or Tampa tie Austin? or Miami tie with Vancouver?

You would think that the "top teams" would destroy the lower teams, just not the case. Most matches are very very close, one goal difference or a tie.

Thus the conclusion of our discussion: Obviously the D-2 is a very competitive league which makes for great football watching! whether it be on the FREE live streaming or at the actual stadium!
Not always easy to predict an outcome! Very entertaining to watch for a D-2 League!

South Florida "Football Fanaticos" Supporters Association (SF3s). We support Miami FC Blues and all football in South Florida.

Anonymous said...

Hi E,

when Cannevaro changed club for Real, wasn't he then playing for Juventus?

just an add on question

The Claus said...

here erik,
check this out from a good tight match in USSF D-2 between Portlan ( who will b in MLS next year) and Crystal Palace Baltimore ( low in the standings).,242823

El Erik said...

Hi Jim, yes, he went to Real Madrid from Juventus, after the forced relegation