The Qantas Socceroos have given group favourites Japan an almighty scare in the final Group B game at the AFC Futsal Championship in Bangkok, eventually going down 4-2 after leading 2-0 at the break.
In a highly entertaining clash, the match was in the balance right to the end, when Japan scored a final goal right on full time, with Australia having sacrificed its keeper in attempting to find an equalising goal.
Chris Zeballos and Luke Haydon scored Australia’s goals to give Australia a commanding half time lead, but Japan, one of the favourites in the tournament, showed their class and came back strong in the second half against a tiring Australian side and claim top spot of the group ahead of the Aussies.
Australia will now play host nation Thailand in the quarter finals on Thursday, with the winner making it to the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup being held in Brazil in October.
Japan started strongly and experienced Australian keeper Gavin O’Brien had to stand tall twice to deny Japan taking the lead.
Adrian Vizzari had Australia’s first good chance when he rattled the woodwork with a thunderous strike, but it wasn’t long before they had the lead after 13 minutes. Zeballos mazy run up the field rewarded when he shot past Japanese keeper Hisao Sadanaga into the top corner.
Three minutes later, Haydon made it 2-0 when he broke free and then beat the charging Sadanaga with a neat drag of the ball and slotted into the empty net.
The second half started with both sides attacking, O’Brien making a full-length save to push away a Japanese shot, while Danny Ngaluafe also hit the woodwork after showing a sublime piece of skill to create the opening for himself.
Japan then pulled a goal back after 25 minutes when Kanayama slid in at the far post to guide home and three minutes later it was all level, when Ono turned and fired home.
With momentum going their way, Japan made it 3-2 in the 32nd minute, when Yusuke Inada side-footed home.
In a dramatic finish, Vizzari thought he had netted an equaliser for Australia, but his attempt was scrambled off the line.
Japan then sealed the match when Komiyama fired home from inside his own half with Australia pushing earnestly for the equaliser and sacrificing O’Brien for an extra attacker.
Australian coach Scott Gilligan was full of praise for his side and can take some confidence that they pushed one of the favourites right till the end.
“We played well today but we showed while we’ve got a lead, we still have problems keeping possession in the second half,” he said.
“I reiterated that at half-time and I think we turned it over too cheaply at times but when you’re chasing the game, you’re always getting more tired.
“Aussies always have a lot of courage and the boys were hurting in that second half.
“I think that’s one of the major problems. In Australia we play running clock and not stop clock and it shows at the back end of each game, so we’re still getting used to the conditioning.
“But I can’t fault the guys, first-half I thought we were tremendous. Obviously they had some chances too but we took ours and they didn’t and in the second-half they took theirs and we didn’t. We still made some chances. It was unfortunate but that’s the way it goes.
“Certainly our team has grown in stature and I know that while the next game will be tough, we’ll be ready.”
The match against Thailand kicks off at 6pm AEST on Thursday.
Source : Football Australia
Published : 14/5/2008