Will football gods answer Harry prayers? - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Will football gods answer Harry prayers?

By Doug Conway 22/06/2010 01:10:04 PM Comments (0)

A Balkans nation again stands between Australia and a place in the final 16 at the World Cup, only this time there are three major differences.

Whereas a draw was good enough against Croatia in Germany four years ago, the Socceroos must beat Serbia in Nelspruit on Wednesday (Thursday morning AEST) to stand any chance.

They must also win without the suspended Harry Kewell, whose dramatic equaliser against Croatia sent Australia into uncharted territory in 2006.

And they must rely on a favourable outcome in the other simultaneous Group D match between Ghana and Germany in Johannesburg.

In other words, their fate is out of their own hands.

It is a position no nation wants to be in, and they are the only team in their group to be in it.

The uplifting news is that their most influential player Tim Cahill is back after serving a one-match suspension.

It was Cahill who single-handedly rescued their World Cup in Germany and has gone on to edge out Kewell as Australia's pin-up boy.

He is feeling "edgy", too; he can't wait to throw himself back into the fray.

The downside is that Australia must win not only without Kewell but minus defensive strongman Craig Moore, suspended after being booked a second time in the brave 1-1 draw against Ghana last weekend.

Moore's absence means coach Pim Verbeek must throw in a comparatively inexperienced replacement, more than likely Michael Beauchamp.

It is a big ask, especially on a tense stage which will undoubtedly feature tough aerial duels against beanpole Serbian striker Nikola Zigic, not to mention world-class defenders Nemanja Vidic and Branislav Ivanovic during set-piece forays.

Serbia may have gone home pointless from Germany in 2006, but they were good enough to beat the Germans in South Africa last week.

That says all that needs to be said about the task facing Australia.

Especially when winning is not enough for the Socceroos.

They must also hope for one of two outcomes in Johannesburg - any win by Ghana or a big win by Germany, enough to help them overcome a five-goal deficit and scrape past the African nation.

Failing that, their campaign is over.

No-one will be praying for success more intensely than Craig Moore and Harry Kewell.

A grandstand is no place to play your last World Cup match.

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