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Australia vs Japan

World Cup Finals 2006 - Group Stage, Match 1
Australia vs Japan
at Fritz-Walter-Stadion, Kaiserslautern on 2006-06-12T05:00:00
Score: 3-1 (0-1)
Scorers: Tim Cahill (84', 89'), John Aloisi (92')
Official Info: FIFA Details
Previous Match: A Golden Night
Next Match: Brazil vs Australia

For many of us, our first ever finals match, as we weren't alive or don't remember 1974. Jamie and I had tickets to a special event at IMAX to watch the match on the big screen. And what a match it turned out to be.

We'd long known that we had to get off to a good start, ie. win this match, to have any chance of progressing to the Round of 16. Japan were our weakest opponents. We had to expect to lose to Brazil. And we didn't want to go into a match against Croatia needing a win.

Everyone stood and sang the national anthem at the start of the match. And then we settled in for a new experience. It was an even match until: disaster! Japan scores after poor work by Schwarzer. Yes, it was probably a foul (even the referee admitted as much after the game), but you don't go in like that and hope for a foul. You own the spot, grab the ball and then when you're knocked over, the foul is obvious. The referee missed it and we were down 0-1. And so it stayed until half-time.

In the second half, Huddink didn't muck around. Off came Bresciano, Moore and Wiltshire, and on went three strikers in Cahill, Kennedy and Aloisi. As the match ground on and the clock ticked down, it looked like Japan were going to hold out, despite our increasing possession. And then the breakthrough in the 84th minute. Cahill, johnny-on-the-spot, scrambles it in, our first ever goal at the finals. The crowd erupts. Our tournament is saved. A point is better than a loss.

Many around me are saying shut up shop. But I'm saying go for it. We have momentum. A win is possible. Cahill nearly goes from hero to villian, with a tackle in our penalty area. Nothing given. And then the moment that could define our tournament. A quality build-up and Cahill scores his second with a quality finish. It's madness. We've won. And yet it's not over. Deep into injury time, Aloisi muscles his way past their defence for our third. 3-1!

As we drive home afterwards, it seems every car has Socceroos fans in it. Everyone is honking their horn. Bring on Brazil.