SPORT

Cahill scripts Socceroos' sensational turnaround





KAISERSLAUTERN: Australia stormed home with three goals in the final eight minutes for a stunning 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Japan in their Group F World Cup match in scorching temperatures here on Monday.

It was Australia's first World Cup win and its first ever goals in only its second finals' appearance in 32 years.

The Australians looked headed for a deflating opening defeat in sapping heat when a controversial 26th-minute goal from playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura rocked them.

But a double from Everton midfielder Tim Cahill, who came on eight minutes after halftime, and another goal from substitute striker John Aloisi turned the game around sensationally as the Australians were rewarded for their all-out attack.

Goalmouth scramble

Cahill fired home in a goalmouth scramble in the 84th minute after goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi fired to clear and he was on the spot again four minutes to lash home a volley that rebounded off the left post into the goal. The Japanese were reeling and Aloisi provided the icing with his team's third goal nearing full-time, evading defender Yuichi Komano to rifle home a left-foot volley to send the gold-clad Australian fans into uproar.

"In the end justice was done in this game," Australia coach Guus Hiddink told reporters. "I think the referee will thank God for the result."

It all looked to be going sour for Hiddink's Aussies after Nakamura's controversial goal.

The Celtic midfielder lobbed in a cross from the right and Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer appeared to be knocked off balance by Naohiro Takahara in going for the ball which bounced into the unguarded goal.

Egyptian referee Essam Abdullah el Fatah enraged the Australian players when he awarded the goal and was confronted by a couple of players remonstrating with his decision.

"It was a clear foul on the goalie. This team is nice to work with because it never gives up," said Hiddink.

Australia was always up against it before Hiddink risked everything to throw on Aloisi and striker Josh Kennedy along with attacking midfielder Cahill to save the match.

The well-marshalled Japanese looked to have repulsed the incessant Australian attacks before Cahill's equalising goal rattled their composure.

Australia now heads to Munich next Sunday for its clash with World Cup holder Brazil, while Japan must regroup against Croatia in Nuremberg on the same day.

Hiddink further enhanced his reputation as one of the great modern-day coaches with the substitutions which altered the course of the match and gave Australia genuine hope of progressing to the last 16.

The Socceroos, playing in the finals for the first time since 1974, had hustled and bustled against a side content to pack the midfield.

Kawaguchi made fine saves from Mark Viduka and Marco Bresciano but with Harry Kewell clearly not fully recovered from a groin injury they lacked a killer instinct until Cahill's equaliser.

Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi had stirred up controversy before the game, suggesting the Socceroos may play rough, a theory midfielder Bresciano did little to disprove when he felled Hidetoshi Nakata on the edge of his own box after 28 seconds.

Luke Wilkshire also gave Alex an early close-up of the pitch but the Aussies soon settled, captain Viduka forcing a fine double-save from Kawaguchi at his near post. Viduka, who belies his burly frame with neat footwork, proved a handful in the early exchanges, feeding well off Vince Grella as Japan was pinned back. Agencies

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