Australia hopes of opening their fourth World Cup campaign with victory were dashed after suffering a 3-1 defeat against Chile at Cuiaba’s Arena Pantanal.
Australia’s campaign looked all but over after Chile scored two goals in two minutes to go up 2-0 after just 14 minutes.
Their high-intensity pressing game on full display as the Socceroos midfield was too easily torn apart and the defence left with gaping holes.
But a shakey-looking Socceroos soon settled with usual suspect Tim Cahill using his aerial advantage over a defensive line with the lowest average height in the tournament to claw one back before the break.
With a tally of four, the veteran Australian striker has now scored more World Cup goals than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo combined.
In what was truly a game of two halves for Australia they largely held their own in the second stanza before Chile’s Jean Beausejour put the final nail in the coffin in the 90th minute.
Diminutive forward Alexis Sanchez, headlining the Chilean attack, didn’t take long to do damage.
Charles Aranguiz stared the play getting the ball forward leading to a scramble in the box with the Socceroos unable to clear the ball before it broke to Sanchez to poke home past Mat Ryan from close range.
The dangerous Barcelona striker was at it again just moments later tearing his way through the Socceroos midfield and past skipper Mile Jedinak to lay the ball off to an unmarked Jorge Valdivia for the finish, sending the over 40,000 mostly Chilean fans into rapture.
A clearly rattled Tommy Oar attempted two shots in the opening half, one that went well wide and the other a virtual air-swing.
With the Socceroos’ nerves settled they managed to claw one back in the 35th minute through the most obvious of outlets, Cahill.
Defender Ivan Franjic went on a menacing run down the right to play a perfect cross into the box, with the veteran striker doing what he does best and climbing above Chile defender Gary Medel to head home.
It was a far more composed and proactive Socceroos who took to the field in the second half.
However coach Ange Postecoglou was left to rue his axing of rightback Luke Wikshire after Franjic landed awkwardly after a tackle and looked to have injured his left hamstring.
With no other specialist rightbacks in the squad Postecoglou called on defender Ryan McGowan to step in.
Cahill looked to have headed home the Socceroos’ equaliser in the 53rd minute but was rightfully ruled offside.
Centreback Alex Wilkinson made a crucial clearance off the line to deny Eduardo Vargas a goal.
Mark Bresciano, who in the opening half looked to be struggling to keep up with Chile’s high intensity play, was back in the game after the break putting gloveman Claudio Bravo to work with a stinging shot.
The chances kept coming for Australia with leftback Jason Davidson, in his best game for Australia, crossing the ball to the waiting Cahill who headed just over.
Looking to exploit the Chile’s high defensive line with pace Postecoglou brought on winger Ben Halloran for Oar and James Troisi for Bresciano.
But it was Mathew Leckie impressed with his busting runs down the right and tough tackles.
After an impressive second half from Australia, who had Chile on the back foot, substitute Beausejour struck again for the South Americans in the 90th minute for the 3-1 result.
— Rod Cuddihy (@RODsaid) June 13, 2014
Yeah. this is going to be ugly — Greg Jericho (@GrogsGamut) June 13, 2014
More to come …