Desperately seeking a morale-boosting World Cup send-off, the Socceroos had to settled for a 1-1 draw with South Africa in Sydney on Monday night.
Ayanda Patosi opened the scoring for the severely depleted South Africans in the 13th minute before striker Tim Cahill returned fire just a minute later in front of 50,459 fans at ANZ Stadium.
With spots in the World Cup squad still up for grabs, the Socceroos rarely looked like a side fighting for a ticket on the plane to Brazil, with coach Ange Postecoglou to cut three from his 30-man group on Tuesday before naming his final 23 on June 2.
In encouraging signs, Postecoglou’s attacking style was apparent from the opening whistle with the Socceroos creating early chances as Tommy Oar, Tim Cahill and Matthew Leckie combined well.
The defence, as expected, proved the main concern.
With Matthew Spiranovic rested with a minor ankle injury, Alex Wilkinson combined with Ryan McGowan in the centre of defence and the partnership looked shaky.
Jason Davidson played at left back while first-choice right back Ivan Franjic, who looked the strongest of the back four, limped off the field with a knock to his right knee but is expected to be fine.
The midfield was without skipper Mile Jedinak and veteran Mark Bresciano and lacked the composure the experienced duo bring.
The Socceroos’ vulnerable defence was exposed when South Africa’s Tokelo Rantie easily got past the back four, dispossessing Wilkinson and playing the ball back to Patosi who put the visitors in front in the 13th minute.
Australia quickly regrouped and struck back with Oar setting up Cahill with a cross into the box, the veteran striker displaying his aerial strength to head home the equaliser.
Cahill looked like putting Australia in front just moments later, his powerful strike drawing a save from goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa.
Oar was on the attack again but scooped the ball over the crossbar while Mark Milligan continued the assault, putting Meyiwa to work midway through the half.
With the attack lacking the spark of the early stages, Postecoglou brought on Ben Halloran for Cahill and Dario Vidosic for Oar in the second half.
Halloran threatened with his pace and got into a position to score a late winner but misfired.
Postecoglou used five of his six substitutions and brought on striker Josh Kennedy in the 83rd minute hoping for a repeat of his late heroics against Iraq last year that sealed Australia’s World Cup berth.
But it was fellow substitute Oliver Bozanic who looked like finding the late winner, but his header just shaved the post in the dying minutes.