The Socceroos have gone down 4-3 to Ecuador with the pivotal moment coming when substitute keeper Mitch Langerak was red-carded.
Tim Cahill has lauded the new-age Socceroos for producing some of the finest football he’s seen from an Australian team despite suffering a heart-breaking last-minute 4-3 loss to Ecuador in London.
Australia blew a 3-0 halftime advantage after being reduced to 10 men following the break, but Cahill and coach Ange Postecoglou drew huge positives from the performance just 99 days out from the World Cup in Brazil.
“The first half was some of the greatest football I’ve ever seen from the Socceroos and I’ve been around for a long time,” said Cahill after etching his name in the history books with his 30th and 31st goals for the Socceroos.
“The youngsters really impressed me. (But) when we had the man sent off, that’s when the damage was done.
“If it’s 11 versus 11, we are not losing that game.”
Cahill was effusive about the climate in the new-look squad who were under a new skipper in Mile Jedinak and in just the second match of Postecoglou’s reign.
“It’s just nice to be part of a set-up that is fresh,” he said. “It’s a really exciting time for Australian football.”
Substitute goal keeper Mitch Langerak was sent off for a crude challenge 13 minutes into the second half and the South Americans took full advantage, piling on three goals to snatch victory at The Den.
Postecoglou admitted it was “extremely disappointing” to lose but he was thrilled with the potential demonstrated in the first half.
“Going down to 10 men against a quality opponent was always going to be tough for us,” he said.
“But up until that point, it just reaffirmed my belief in the direction we’re heading.
“I was really happy with our shape in that first half and the way the team were able to play the kind of football we wanted to.
“We were really bright and positive and every time we got the ball we tried to find little angles for ourselves. It was exciting to see … it was definitely a step forward”.
The first 45 minutes were golden.
Cahill – the oldest player in the squad at 34 – surpassed Damian Mori as Australia’s all-time top scorer in international football when he headed home the Socceroos’ opening goal on eight minutes.
Seven minutes later, he was awarded a penalty and Jedinak converted to put Australia 2-0 up in the last match before Postecoglou names his preliminary 30-man World Cup squad.
Cahill scored again with a header at the 31-minute mark to make it 3-0.
But it all went horribly wrong after Langerak was sent off, with Ecuador first equalising and then stealing the win with just a minute left on the clock.
After the game, Cahill told reporters the Socceroos were unlucky because he could easily have been awarded three penalties.
Curtis Good, the youngest player at just 20, started in defence, gaining his first cap and proving Postecoglou is serious about building a new “golden generation”.
Massimo Luongo, 21, also made his debut coming on for the captain after Langerak was red-carded.
Good played alongside Matt Spriranovic, with both putting in solid performances, making a return for former captain Lucas Neill less likely.
The centre back pair didn’t play against Costa Rica in November but came in for the overlooked Neill and injured Rhys Williams.
Brisbane Roar defender Ivan Franjic was given the nod for the right back role ahead of veteran Luke Wilkshire.
Mat Ryan went a long way to securing the spot of Australia’s leading gloveman heading into Brazil with a near-flawless display in the first 45 minutes.
Ryan told reporters he’d tried to console Langerak after the match.
“It was just one of those things where he made the decision to commit (off the line) and, unfortunately on this occasion, it didn’t pay off for him,” Ryan said.