FIFA WORLD CUP

Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion, Stuttgart, Germany

Referee: Graham Poll | Attendance: 52000

* Local time based on your geographic location.

Croatia

  • Darijo Srna 3'
  • Nico Kovac 56'

2 - 2

FT

Game 44

Australia

  • Craig Moore 39' PEN
  • Harry Kewell 79'

Croatia 2-2 Australia

The most pulsating, dramatic, heart-stopping contest of a thrilling World Cup ended with Australia booking a last-16 meeting with Italy.

Harry Kewell's 79th-minute angled drive sent the Socceroos bouncing into the

knockout phase for the first time in their history.

Yet the mere scoreline does not even start to get close to explaining the

story behind a truly extraordinary game which Australia ended with 10 men and

Croatia nine.

Twice Australia were forced to come from behind to grab the precious point

they so desperately required after conceding initially in the second minute,

then at the start of the second period following a mistake to rank up with any

the competition had ever seen from recalled keeper Zeljko Kalac.

Yet, showing the same pugnacious spirit which has seen them become world

champion at so many sports, Australia simply refused to lie down.

Craig Moore pulled them level just before half-time when he kept his nerve to

fire home from the spot, then, after Australia had another clear spot-kick

appeal turned down by referee Graham Poll, Kewell drove home the goal which

blasted open the door to the second round.

Nobody celebrated the draw more enthusiastically than Australian coach Guus

Hiddink, who had almost seen the biggest gamble of his entire coaching career go

disastrously wrong.

Hiddink stunned the Aussie support by bringing back Kalac, who spends his

winters sat on the AC Milan bench, ahead of established number one Mark

Schwarzer.

Kalac had barely touched the ball when he was picking it out of his own net, a

legacy of Mark Viduka's third-minute foul on Croatian captain Niko Kovac.

Up stepped Darijo Srna to stroke a 25-yard free-kick beyond Kalac and into the

top corner.

For half an hour thereafter, Australia battered the Croatian defence for no

reward.

Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka and Kewell all wasted chances to equalise and

Australia were just starting to run out of ideas when Stjepan Tomas stuck up a

fist to deflect away a Brett Emerton cross.

Poll spotted the infringement and though the gap between the Premiership

official blowing his whistle and Moore stepping up to take the keep seemed to

last forever, the Newcastle man kept his cool to fire home.

Then came Kalac's abberation. Getting right behind a seemingly innocuous Kovac

strike, the keeper somehow managed to let the ball slip through his grasp and

into the net. With Schwarzer sat not five yards away, Hiddink must have wanted

the ground to open up and swallow him.

It was another shattering blow. Yet Australia refused to buckle. Time and

again they bashed away.

Another Tomas handball was missed by Poll, Kewell's shot was brilliantly

pushed over by Stipe Pletikosa, Cahill went agonisingly close.

But the goal that would not come eventually did. Marco Bresciano floating over

the right-wing cross which John Aloisi flicked into Kewell's path.

All Kewell's talent which is so inconsistently on show, did not fail him this

time. Control with the chest, finish on the volley. Easy as that.

Unfortunately, it was not quite that for Australia, who lived on their nerves

for those final 10 minutes.

Dario Simic and Brett Emerton were both red-carded as the action intensified.

Moore booted off the Australian line.

Amid the frenzy, even Poll lost his head, booking Melbourne-born Croat Josip

Simunic for a second and then a third time, before eventually brandishing red in

his face after the final whistle.

At the end, the Australian fans celebrated as they would any Ashes triumph or

rugby victory. On the biggest sporting stage of all, the most sports-mad nation

has finally arrived.

Scoring Summary

  • Croatia
  • Australia
Darijo Srna (3')
Nico Kovac (56')
(pen 39') Craig Moore
(79') Harry Kewell

Match Stats

  • Croatia
  • Australia
12(6) Shots (on goal) 15(7)
17 Fouls 21
4 Corner kicks 9
2 Offsides 1
46% Time of Possession 54%
4 Yellow Cards 1
2 Red Cards 1
7 Saves 5

Teams

  • Croatia
  • Australia
Substitutes
Substitutions
Yellow Cards
Red Cards
Dario Simic (85')
Josip Simunic (90 + 4')