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Aussie subs sink Japan

Last updated on: June 12, 2006 20:59 IST

Tim Cahill made history in dramatic style, scoring Australia's first goals in a World Cup finals with two goals in the last six minutes to lead his team to a 3-1 win over Japan in their Group F opener on Monday.

A disputed goal from Shunsuke Nakamura had given Japan a 26th minute advantage, his cross floating over keeper Mark Schwarzer, who seemed to have been impeded by Atsushi Yanagisawa as he came to punch clear.

Egyptian referee Esam Abd El Fatah waved away furious protests from Australia.

But Cahill levelled in the 84th minute when a long throw was missed by goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and he drilled the ball in from eight metres.

Substitute Cahill made it 2-1 five minutes later with a long-range drive going in off the post.

To complete Japan's misery, substitute John Aloisi added a third goal in injury time.

The Socceroos, playing in the finals for the first time since 1974, had hustled and bustled against a side content to pack the midfield.

Kawaguchi made fine saves from Mark Viduka and Marco Bresciano but with Harry Kewell clearly not fully recovered from a groin injury they lacked a killer instinct until Cahill's equaliser.  

Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi had stirred up controversy before the game, suggesting the Socceroos may play rough, a theory midfielder Bresciano did little to disprove when he felled Hidetoshi Nakata on the edge of his own box after 28 seconds.

Luke Wilkshire also gave Alex an early close-up of the pitch but the Aussies soon settled, captain Viduka forcing a fine double-save from Kawaguchi at his near post.

Viduka, who belies his burly frame with neat footwork, proved a handful in the early exchanges, feeding well off Vince Grella as Japan were pinned back.

Japan, who reached the last 16 as co-hosts in 2002, were forced to rely on the counter-attack. From one such break Takashi Fukunishi fired over, then a nice turn from Naohiro Takahara was let down with an inaccurate finish.

Bresciano tested Kawaguchi again and, after Nakamura's goal, the ineffective Kewell blazed narrowly over.

Hiddink threw on attacking midfielder Cahill and strikers Joshua Kennedy and Aloisi in a bold move after the break and it reaped a stunning dividend.

World champions Brazil take on Croatia in their opening Group F tie in Berlin on Tuesday.

Justin Palmer
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