What fine margins we are dealing with at this World Cup.
England stayed the right side. Just.
The Socceroos came up short. Just.
After the goalkeeping gaffe against USA and the more collective failure against Algeria, England performed much more as a team against Slovenia.
Even so it needed two great defensive blocks from Glen Johnson, and then, at the very last, Matt Upson to avoid conceding a goal, which would have knocked them out.
If the celebrations from Fabio Capello looked excessive, they were full of relief. If England had gone, so would its highly paid Italian coach.
Australia,on the other hand, didn’t have quite the powers of recovery from fate dealing it a rougher hand. Or a tough call on the arm. Or a tough but mistimed tackle.
That the talismanic twosome of Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell would both be red carded was totally unpredictable. Even in the happy punting environment of Down Under, I bet not one bet was struck on such a disastrous double.
For both the call could have gone the other way. Tim’s challenge was a yellow card but no more. If it had been truly reckless FIFA would have handed him more than a one-game ban.
I was delighted that he brought his goal touch to bear against Serbia and now has the honour of being a scorer in two World Cups.
As for Harry the referee may have made technically the right call, but the law is an ass in this respect. How can you be denying a goalscoring opportunity when the ball is then put on the penalty spot?
I‘d read that the lawmakers were going to change this “double whammy” but they then changed their minds.
With 11 men until the end I am sure Australia would not have lost by four goals against Germany.
With a full set of players I wager it would have beaten Ghana.
The comfort I can offer is that I am sure the Socceros will be back for Brazil 2014 and being so competitive in qualification is a great stride from the fallow period between 1974 and 2006.
When the final whistle went in Port Elizabeth, England was actually on top of Group C only for Landon Donovan’s added-time winner to propel USA above it and push Slovenia out of the mix.
Later that evening we knew England’s long rivalry with Germany was to be rekindled, and I mean 1966, 1970 and 1990.
The earlier hostilities are now so distant that when England was knocked out of the finals four years ago many Three Lions fans adopted Germany as their next favourite team.
The hospitality of the German hosts at that World Cup will never be forgotten by English visitors, but it will be put to one side when the two nations meet in Bloemfontain.
On what I have seen here, and not on patriotism, I go for a narrow England win. But not if it goes to penalties.
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Fondly known as 'Mr Football', Les has been directly involved in all
the major events covered by SBS Sport, including five World Cup
football tournaments. Follow @lesmurraysbs on Twitter.
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Considered one of Australia's most gifted players, Ned Zelic represented the Socceroos 34 times over a decorated career that spanned Europe, Asia and the United Kingdom. Follow @NedZelic on Twitter.
After years playing abroad and a 20-goal career for the Socceroos, David turned his hand to football punditry and is a beach football fanatic. Follow @zdrila on Twitter.
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