Australia’s remarkable run of results has come crashing to a halt at the Seoul World Cup Stadium as Korea downed the Socceroos 3-1 tonight in an International Friendly. With both teams safely through to the World Cup Finals as top of their Asian qualifying groups, this was a chance for both managers to test some new players, and Aussie coach Pim Verbeek rang in the changes in what was a homecoming for him, as he coached South Korea before taking the Australian job.
Australia’s new look back four were rattled by two early goals, both defensive mistakes, as first a stray Jason Culina pass was intercepted on the half way line, followed by a quick Korean breakaway as Park Chu Young put the first past Mark Schwarzer, and shortly afterwards, a free kick to the back post saw a goalmouth scramble and an uncontested backheel flick by Lee Jung Soo give Korea a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
At this stage Australia were under all sorts of pressure and could have conceded several more goals before pulling one back off a set piece, as a Bresciano free kick was headed home by Leeds United defender Pat Kisnorbo to bring the Socceroos back into the game. From that moment forth, Australia regained their composure and were able to eventually enjoy periods of dominance over Korea, with Josh Kennedy coming close with a number of headers, using his height to first narrowly miss, and eventually hitting the post.
It was the Manchester United midfielder Ji-sung Park however who was at the centre of everything good Korea was doing, and ultimately it was he that killed the game off towards the end of the second half, as he picked up the ball near the half way line, and dribbled around Australia’s midfield enforcer Vince Grella, down the touchline beating two more players with an explosion of speed, finally able to produce a pinpoint cross for Ki Sung Yueng to nod home. Park’s inclusion by Sir Alex Ferguson in big matches has often been a talking point amongst pundits and fans, but Australians will not be amongst those that question the great manager after this display, culminating in a demonstration of power and skill that has rarely been inflicted on a side that has risen to an all time high of 14 in the world this week.
Korea’s unbeaten run now stretches to 25 games, and they will be heading to the World Cup full of confidence. For Australia, there were positives after the slow start, and the introduction of Nicky Carle on the hour mark made a difference to the creativity levels and energy in the side, but they will be a different team when the absent Kewell, Cahill, Lucas Neill and Brett Emerton return. Their next match is a friendly with the Netherlands on October 11 at the Sydney Football Stadium.