Australia has fallen short of an historic victory over South American champions Chile at the Confederations Cup, finishing with a 1-1 draw that sends the Socceroos home from the tournament.
In Tim Cahill’s 100th match for the national team, the Socceroos put together one of the brightest performances of Ange Postecoglou’s tenure and opened the scoring through James Troisi’s first-half chip.
Australia outplayed the world’s No.4 side but conceded to Martin Rodriguez as they chased the second goal they needed to reach the semi-finals in Russia.
Postecoglou said he was “shattered” by the result, despite the performance.
“We wanted to get out of this group. That’s what we came here for and we haven’t, so I’m just disappointed,” he said.
“I came here to achieve something and we’ve fallen short so I’ll pack my bags and be on my way.”
The Socceroos will forever wonder what might have been.
Trent Sainsbury should have buried a volley in first-half stoppage time.
Robbie Kruse failed to connect with a through-ball in the box on the hour mark.
And substitute Jamie Maclaren sent the ball wide of the post on 72 minutes with a shot that looked destined to restore Australia’s lead.
But aside from a hamstring injury to Sainsbury, the Socceroos should take only positives from Spartak Stadium.
Postecoglou credited his players for their effort but couldn’t shake the feeling it could have been very different.
“It’s definitely a missed opportunity. We wanted to come here and at least get out of the group and we haven’t,” Postecoglou said.
“If you look at the context of the three games we were in every game (so I’m) disappointed that we couldn’t get through.
“That’s me setting the highest possible benchmarks which I think we have to if we want to consistently compete at this level.
“For the boys to do that tonight, I think they’ll get a great amount of belief out of it.”
The showing was all the more meritorious and surprising given Postecoglou made six changes, fielding a largely experimental team.
Citing a need for energy, Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Mat Leckie were left on the bench in favour of Jackson Irvine, Massimo Luongo, Cahill and Troisi in midfield.
It worked, with Cahill setting a physical and high-tempo tone in the first half when four Socceroos were booked.
Chile carved out the best early chance. Mat Ryan reacted sharply to deny Arturo Vidal’s volley and a follow-up from Eduardo Vargas.
Mark Milligan, who subdued Alexis Sanchez all night, made a last-gasp intervention as the Arsenal star bore down on goal.
Australia were creating openings of their own, and on 42 minutes, the Socceroos were rewarded for their ambition.
Robbie Kruse and Sainsbury won the ball back in midfield and surged forward, with the winger finding Troisi alone at the back post to strike.
Sainsbury astonishingly sent a free volley over the bar in stoppage time but Australia carried all the momentum into the break.
The Socceroos were on top and looked odds-on for a second before Rodriguez’ intervention.
Aziz Behich lost a header in the box and the ball fell to the substitute, who poked home.
The result places Australia 3rd in their group, joining Russia, New Zealand and Cameroon as group stage departures from Russia.
The semi-finals, to be staged on 28 and 29 July, pits Portugal against Chile and Group B winners Germany with Mexico.
The Socceroos are next in action in August in a crucial World Cup qualifier in Japan.