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Croatia vs Australia

World Cup Finals 2006 - Group Stage, Match 3
Croatia vs Australia
at Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion - Stuttgart on 2006-06-22T11:00:00
Score: 2-2 (1-1)
Scorers: Craig Moore (38'), Harry Kewell (79')
Official Info: FIFA Details
Previous Match: Brazil vs Australia

Our greatest ever result, but the nature of the game and the refereeing meant it was almost impossible to enjoy.

Unable to sleep, I awoke early and headed into the pub at about 4:00am. I arrived at about 4:30am and there was hardly anyone there. I scored a great seat at the front. I needn't have worried about the turnout though. By 4:50am the pub was full. Just before 5:00am fans were trying to squeeze in the front door. We discover that Huddink has preferred Kalac over Schwarzer. The rendition of the national anthem was incredible. And so we sat back, looking forward to the most important game in Australia's football history.

And then disaster. We concede an early free kick which is drilled home in the top-corner past Kalac in just the second minute. 0-1 down and the match has barely begun. Viduka is then man-handled in the penalty box. How is that not a penalty? The first half is just nerve-wracking. How will we get back in it? Finally, the referee sees it our way. Penalty. Craig Moore steps up and puts it away in an ice-cool manner. We hang in there (both on and off the field). 1-1 at half-time.

In the second half, we're looking reasonably comfortable. 1-1 is fine with us, so Croatia have to make the running and they don't seem to be making any inroads. And then disaster #2. Kalac, in a moment that could haunt him forever, fumbles and we concede the softest of goals. Down 1-2 with plenty of time to get back in it. But can we come back from a goal down twice?

Huddink again doesn't waste much time. Off come Grella, Chipperfield and Sterjovski and on come Aloisi, Bresciano and Kennedy. Time is running out and we've used all our subs. Then the moment that will go down in Australian football history. Kewell scores the equaliser. The crowd goes mad.

Simunic for Croatia gets a second yellow but is not sent off. What is going on? Simic (Croatia) and Emerton earn second yellows each and it's down to 10 men each. Time has run almost run out. Croatia try everything. Australia counters. Aloisi scores! Or does he. The ref's pulled it up - but for what? Simunic gets a third yellow and is finally sent off. What is going on? It's full time, we think. Simon Hill (commentator) doesn't know. Can we celebrate? We don't know. Then finally, it's clear. It's over, we've got the result we needed and we're through to the round of 16. I don't think I can take much more of this.

Afterword: surely Kalac has played his last game for Australia. Referee Poll announces his retirement from international refereering.