Socceroos earn respect at FIFA World Cup
THEY weren't expected to win a game, weren't even expected to score a goal - some even suggested the Socceroos didn't deserve their place in the tournament.
And while the team may go home empty-handed, Ange Postecoglou's men have earned something just as important as points in Brazil ... respect.
The young Australian side was magnificent in the 3-2 loss to the Netherlands yesterday morning, justifying claims by Postecoglou and the players before the match that the team had no fear of the star-studded Dutch side and would go in to the game playing, and expecting, to win.
After being down 1-0 at half-time, the Socceroos responded with a stunning goal by Tim Cahill - a contender for goal of the tournament - and then sent shockwaves through the stadium at Porto Alegre by going ahead 2-1 after a penalty by captain Mile Jedinak. Australia's defence is still a work in progress, though, and a couple of lapses resulted in goals to captain Robin van Persie and 20-year-old substitute Memphis Depay who became the youngest player to score a goal for the Netherlands at a World Cup.
Despite the valiant effort, Postecoglou said he still felt bitterly disappointed for the players.
"They were magnificent. They took it to a world-class team. It's easy for me to talk about going forward and having self-belief. But they're the ones that have to do it," he told SBS.
"Full credit to them. But I just feel bitterly disappointed they weren't able to get some reward out of it."
The Socceroos will be without Cahill for the final Group game against Spain after he received his second yellow card of the tournament, and veteran midfielder Mark Bresciano is likely to be rested after again playing through the pain of a hip flexor problem against the Dutch.
With Cahill and Bresciano both in the twilight of their careers at 34, the match against Holland was likely to be their last appearance in a World Cup finals match.
Despite picking up his second yellow card, Cahill said he had no regrets about missing the next game against Spain.
"It is what it is," he said. "I leave everything on the pitch. You've got to put your body on the line and sometimes you miss games.
"This has been an amazing World Cup campaign for us, but it's not over yet. We'll really try to test ourselves against one of the best in the world."
The odds of a Socceroos upset in that game were slashed after the heroic effort against the Dutch, and Spain's 2-0 loss to Chile.
Spain's early exit from the tournament (it also lost 5-1 to the Netherlands), marked the third time in the past four World Cup finals the defending champion failed to make it past the group stage. France in 2002 and Italy in 2010 also didn't reach the knockout stage after winning four years earlier.
AT A GLANCE: MATCH TIMES
Italy v Costa Rica
in Recife, 2am
Switzerland v France
in Salvador, 5am
Honduras v Ecuador
in Curitiba, 8am
Croatia 4 (Olic 11, Perisic 48, Mandzukic 61, 73) Cameroon 0 in Manaus
Netherlands 3 (Robben , 20 van Persie 58, Depay 68)
Australia 2 (Cahill 21, Jedinak 54) in Porto Alegre
Chile 2 (Vargaz 20, C Aranguiz 43)
Spain 0 in Rio de Janeiro