Australia 3 Japan 1: Cahill's late show caps historic victory

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The Independent Football

It was as much a rarity as an Australian town voting to go "dry", and Tim Cahill will never tire of reliving Australia's first World Cup goal in their history.

There was a repeat almost immediately from Cahill, who was thrust into the fray as one of three second-half substitutes, as the Socceroos recovered belatedly and, in truth, miraculously, from a controversial first-half goal from Japan with three of their own between the 84th minute and the second minute of added time.

Strewth, talk about the amber nectar.

The sensation was particularly rich as the 26-year-old Everton midfielder has been struggling to recover from knee ligament damage, sustained in late April, and had only returned to Guus Hiddink's team in last week's friendly against Liechtenstein.

It was a contest in which Australia's coach went through the gamut of emotions in 30C heat. Early on, an emotional Guus Hiddink - incandescent after Japan's goal had been allowed to stand by Egyptian referee Essam Abd El Fatah, despite goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer being impeded when Shunsuke Nakamura's cross sailed over the Australian's head into an empty net - remonstrated with the fourth official.

It later transpired that the blazer had refused to allow Hiddink to see a TV replay of the incident, despite the fact the crowd had watched it on the big screen.

"I slightly, but not totally, apologise for that," Hiddink said. "They were shielding the screen from me. It was ridiculous that the only person not allowed to see what had happened was the coach." He added: "In the end justice was done in this game. I think the referee will thank God that the game finished as it did. It was a clear foul on the goalie."

It was by no means the end of Hiddink's histrionics. After the interval, he rather injudiciously shoved a hand in the chest of an official after some suspicion of time-wasting by Japan. But by the end, the scowls had turned to the broadest of smiles as the paunchy Dutchman, who took South Korea to the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup but was spurned by the English Football Association, was dancing on the touchline and punching the air like a grandfather in a disco. Hiddink could be excused his exuberance. Someone referred to Australia's "escape". He scoffed. "That was not an escape. An escape is something when you are being crucified, but today that was not the case."

Neither was he being arrogant, he said, when he suggested that all three of his second-half substitutions - the others being the influential Joshua Kennedy and John Aloisi, scorer of Australia's third - had been planned. "That is not luck. It's nice to plan things as a coach, and see thing executed nearly perfectly."

Until then, it must be stressed, Zico's team appeared capable of withstanding an assault by Australia which too frequently lacked imagination. The Socceroos, playing in the finals for the first time since 1974, had been industrious against a side prepared to pack their midfield. The Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi made splendid saves from Mark Viduka and Marco Bresciano but with Harry Kewell hampered by a groin injury there appeared no way through until Cahill equalised.

Takashi Fukunishi came close to restoring Japan's lead but his effort from the edge of the area was wide. Japan also had a penalty appeal turned down when Cahill appeared to commit a foul in the area. They were soon to count the cost when Cahill added a second five minutes later, before Aloisi darted through a fatigued defence for the third.

Of Japan's lack of finishing prowess when still ahead, their Brazilian coach, Zico, said: "We wasted a great opportunity."

Ultimately, Australian resolve won through. When have we seen that before?