Australia draw with Paraguay
Australia has drawn 1-1 with Paraguay in its international friendly match at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium tonight. Retiring defender Tony Popovic scored what looked a late winner for Australia, but an unfortuante own goal from Michael Beauchamp gifted the South Americans an injury-time equaliser.
It was almost the perfect farewell for the four retiring Socceroos, and in particular defender Tony Popovic, but an injury time own goal by Michael Beauchamp saw the match with Paraguay finish 1-1 at Suncorp Stadium.
With the match seemingly headed for a 0-0 draw, Popovic, playing his 58th and final match for Australia, was given his last chance to make an impact before he too would get his chance to say goodbye.
With two minutes left of normal time, up he went to a free kick and ghosted in to meet Marco Bresciano-s cross and he expertly guided it inside the far post. It was to be the perfect farewell, but an unfortunate piece of luck was bestowed on Popovic-s replacement Beauchamp, as he tried to clear a bouncing cross and only succeeded in guiding it past Schwarzer, who himself had only been on the field for a few minutes.
No matter the result, the match proved a fitting farewell for Stan Lazaridis, Tony Vidmar, Zeljko Kalac and Popovic, who all played there last match for the Socceroos after many years of loyal service to the green and gold shirt.
Each player, starting with Lazaridis, was given their time to say goodbye and also receive a rousing ovation from the crowd and an embrace from their fellow team mates, as they walked off the field for the last time.
The match itself was a tough one for the home side, who struggled at times to break down a resolute Paraguayan team that showed just why they are the number 3 ranked team in the strong South American confederation.
The first half saw very few chances created and while a multitude of substitutions in the second half saw the game open up a little, neither keeper was severely tested over the course of the match.
It was a very physical match with the Paraguayans particularly upset with the heavy handed approach of Australia and leniency of the Japanese referee to some of the challengers, although in many cases more was being made of some than had actually occurred.
Josip Skoko was a tad unlucky not to be given a penalty after just 60 seconds of the match, as he raced onto Vidmar-s through ball, only to be clearly shoved off the ball by his Paraguayan tracker.
In the 9th minute, John Aloisi burst into the box, but his touch let him down and the Paraguay keeper Villar was able to gather. This proved all too similar in the first half, as Australia often got itself into good positions, but the final killer ball was always just off and the chance would go missing.
A typical late run into the penalty area by Tim Cahill saw him presented with an opportunity in the 38th minute, but his header went way over the bar, which clearly annoyed the Everton midfielder.
Shortly after, Paraguay probably had the best opportunity of the half, when a Bonet cross was misjudged by Kalac, but he did enough to put Cardozo off his head and sailed over the bar.
Australia finished the half strongly and had several close calls, with an Emerton shot from close range blocked away.
Paraguay came out with more urgency in the second half and the tempo of the game as such lifted, with Cuevas having a shot go across the face of goal just 50 seconds in.
With an eye on next Wednesday night-s match against Bahrain, Lazaridis was soon replaced, with Archie Thompson coming on.
The game almost boiled over when Cahill flung an arm out at Barreta and to the disgust of the visitors was only issued with a yellow card.
With chances at a premium, Bresciano had a good chance to break the deadlock with an open shot at goal, but he managed to hit his shot straight to Villar.
Paraguay gave a send-off for one of their own greats in captain Gamarra, who made in excess of 100 caps for his country and played in three World Cup campaigns, as the game started to open up, with a steady stream of substitutions now arriving.
In the 72nd minute, Vidmar was the second of the quartet to get his early shower, the Brisbane crowd giving him an ovation he will remember for many years to come.
As the corner count for Australia climbed so did the chances, with Jason Culina, who had come on for Skoko in the 60th minute, forcing a save from Villar, while Grella hit a drive across the face of goal.
Culina saw another shot whistle past the post in the 84th minute, as Australia went looking for a winner.
The lively Thompson then weaved some nice footwork just outside the left edge of the penalty area, to draw a foul and Popovic looked to have made it a very memorable night, when he guided the free kick home with a precision header from six yards out.
Kalac and then Popovic soon followed with their goodbye-s to international football, but it wasn-t to be the dream ending.
Two minutes into injury time, Paraguay substitute Cabanas delivered a dangerous cross, which Beauchamp under pressure from Cardozo, could only divert past a stranded Schwarzer. It was a cruel twist for the newly arrived pair, as it was Beauchamp-s first act of the match and Schwarzer had not yet touched the ball.
However while the result left the crowd in a somewhat subdued mood at the end, they were soon back to their roaring best as they gave the four retirees and the rest of the Socceroos another rousing applause.
Looking ahead the tough match was just what the doctor ordered for the Socceroos, who will head into Wednesday-s all-important Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain, knowing they must win at all costs and give the new era of Australian football a good start.
Australia 1 (Tony Popovic 88-) Paraguay 1 (Michael Beauchamp OG 92-+)
Australian line-up: Zeljko Kalac (gk), Lucas Neill (capt), Tim Cahill, Tony Vidmar (Jade North 72-), Tony Popovic (Michael Beauchamp 91-), Brett Emerton, Josip Skoko (Jason Culina 60-), Stan Lazaridis (Archie Thompson 50-), Vince Grella, John Aloisi, Marco Bresciano (Mark Milligan 93-+) Subs not used: Alex Brosque, Ante Covic (gk), Travis Dodd, Mile Sterjovski, Luke Wilkshire
Cautions: Cahill (55-), Culina (75-)
Referee: J. Kashihara (Japan)