A Chilean player admitted to cheating as star-struck Australia suffered stage fright in a galling opening World Cup loss.
Australian striker Tim Cahill says Chile’s 3-1 win in Cuiaba came down to respect: the Socceroos showed their opponents too much and their opponents showed soccer none.
Cahill says his Chilean marker Gonzalo Jara admitted to cheating in a feisty fixture at the Arena Pantanal.
The pair tangled behind play in a first half incident which led to the Australian copping a yellow card.
“The left back kicked out at me when I was trying to run past him for a cross and I pushed him away – and I got the yellow card,” Cahill told reporters.
“I called him a cheat. And he said ‘yes, I’m a cheat, so what’.
“That is not gamesmanship … this needs to be out of the game.”
The Australians opened with frayed nerves on soccer’s biggest stage and conceded two goals in three minutes.
Inside a quarter hour the Socceroos were 2-0 down and on the ropes.
Chilean fans, who dominated the 40,275-strong crowd, were soon taunting the Australian players with a mocking ‘ole’ chant as Chile held a string of possession.
But Cahill, so often the saviour, again came to the rescue.
The expert marksman pegged a goal back with a trademark header in the 35th minute to revive the flagging Socceroos.
And he was a central figure in a second-half Socceroos rally.
Cahill netted another header only to be correctly called offside. And he had an appeal for a penalty rejected after having his shirt obviously pulled.
Both Cahill and Australian coach Ange Postecoglou believed a penalty should have been given.
“We should have probably been awarded a penalty because the only way they could stop him was by holding on to his shirt,” Postecoglou said.
Postecoglou conceded his players were “overawed” early.
But he praised a spirited fightback which only ended in injury time when Chilean substitute Jean Beausejour scored his nation’s third goal.
“The players are very disappointed because they sensed that the game was there for them and they thought they could get something out of the game,” Postecoglou said.
“So to walk off and cop that late goal, it’s very deflating.”
The defeat came at a cost, with defender Ivan Franjic suffering a left hamstring strain which is set to end his World Cup.
And three Australians – Cahill, captain Mike Jedinak and Mark Milligan – must tread carefully: all got yellow cards and will be suspended for a match if they receive another one.