Harry Kewell (above) scored from close range to give Australia a 2-2 draw (there's that word again) with Croatia and send the Aussies into the second round alongside the defending champion Brazil from Group F.
Australia, which entered the cup competition ranked 44th in the world, will face the powerful team from Italy on June 26 in Kaiserslautern.
The match was billed as a clash of loyalties. Seven players of Croatian descent played for Australia, while three Croatian players grew up Down Under. Those ties took a back seat on the field as the players exchanged bone-crunching tackles.
For the entire match it seemed as if the Australians were chasing a victory, battering at the Croatian defense, which looked closer and closer to buckling but kept holding up.Back in Australia, millions rose before dawn to watch the live broadcast, with crowds of thousands gathering before giant screens in Sydney and Melbourne.
Said Prime Minister John Howard:
It is a great sporting moment. What is great about this is that for so long we had in Australia hundreds of thousands of young boys, and increasingly girls now, playing soccer, but somehow or other we couldn't break through into the international scene.
'BULLSH*T! BULLSH*T! BULLS*T!For all
's rich sporting history, had it ever witnessed 90 minutes like the 2-2 draw with Australia ? Croatia
This was sporting drama of the highest order, quality tinged with incompetence, a compelling narrative with numerous subplots, laced with umpteen heroes (and a few villains . . . ) and culminating in the most extraordinary finale.. . . For those clinging to the vestiges of imperial superiority in at least one sport,
's presence in the last 16 of the World Cup is strange enough. But it is utterly deserved. For all the skill in evidence, the decisive factor was the Australian spirit. At the risk of making national generalisations -- there may well be inefficient Germans and long-ball Brazilians -- the Socceroos displayed the character that is a hallmark of Australian sides on other sporting fields. Australia
The Croatians had the first roar. As they saw their first goal — the game’s first goal — cries rang out from their small encircled enclaves in the great crush of green and gold. A mother and her children, all decked out in red and white checks, chanted in triumph: “Mir Hrvati! Mir Hrvati!” (We Croatians!) Others, who had come armed with more than just their voices, hurled celebratory plastic bottles, rolls of unfurling loo paper and hot pink phosphorescent flares at the big screen. This was their moment. Socceroos fans nearby were less than generous in allowing it to them. “Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!” some of them jeered in unison.
I suppose I was unpatriotic to not get behind a lackluster U.S. team that slunk home after scoring only a single goal in three matches. (Embarrassingly for both teams, Italy scored their only other goal.)
That left my two faves -- Australia and Ghana.
Australia because it is my adopted second home and Ghana because of its wide open style, which is a thing of beauty and a joy forever . . .
. . . or until Monday afternoon when it faces Brazil. Alas, I think that it will be the end of a great run.
I'm prepared for lightning to strike again when the Socceroos face off against Italy, but the Italian eleven has improved with each match and will be very tough to defeat.
That always leaves England for me to root for, but for the time being my allegiances are elsewhere in the commonwealth.