Ex-Korean coach works magic againFor Guus Hiddink, it was like 2002 all over again.
The former Korean national team coach, who guided the squad to an improbable semifinal berth four years ago, is now at the helm of Australia, which is in its first World Cup in 32 years.
And at the Aussies' first Group F match against Japan late Monday night Korean time, Hiddink again worked his magic in a dramatic, 3-1 come-from-behind victory.
In a substitution pattern reminiscent of the one he used during the Korea-Italy match in the round of 16 four years ago, Hiddink inserted three offensive players into the game in the second half ― forwards Joshua Kennedy and John Aloisi, and midfielder Tim Cahill ― in place of defensive players. And the three substitutes proved to be an integral part of the comeback.
Australia entered the second half trailing 1-0 on a controversial goal by Japan, scored at the 26th minute when Shunsuke Nakamura's centering attempt from the right wing sailed over Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who collided with Atsushi Yanagisawa. Hiddink’s protests were to no avail, and the frustrated “Socceroos” got chippy, with Vince Grella receiving a yellow card for excessive arguing with the referee.
Hiddink’s substitutions appeared a desperate, risky roll of the dice until the last eight minutes of the match.
In the 84th minute, Cahill banged home a shaky clearing attempt off a throw-in by Japanese goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, who got tangled up amid a pile of players and left the net wide open.
Just five minutes later, Cahill was on the mark again, launching a 20-yarder off the left post and into the net for the go-ahead score.
In injury time, Aloisi split the flummoxed Japanese defense in the center for the last tally.
“It’s an unforgettable experience to come on as a substitute in a World Cup and score two goals,” Cahill said. “This is a great start to our campaign and we're ready for the next step on our World Cup mission.”
Following the defeat, Japan faces an unenviable task of having to beat either defending champs Brazil or Croatia for a chance to reach the round of 16.
In the opening Group E match, the Czech Republic received great efforts from a pair of 33-year-old veterans, midfielder Pavel Nedved and forward Jan Koller, in a 3-0 thrashing of the United States.
Nedved, who came out of retirement to play in his first World Cup, was the heart of the Czech offense, controlling the pace and setting up several chances for Koller, Vratislav Lokvenc and Jiri Stajner.
Koller, 202 centimeters (6-foot-7) tall, opened the scoring in the fifth minute on his trademark header off a cross from Zdenek Grygera, but later suffered a hamstring injury after a collision with Oguchi Onyewu, with two minutes left in the first half. He left the game on a stretcher, but a team spokesman later said there was no structural damage.
Another star for the Czechs was midfielder Tomas Rosicky. In the 36th minute, his powerful strike past Kasey Keller from 27 yards out near the top of the circle gave his team a 2-0 lead on two shots. Then in the 76th minute, the 25-year-old struck again, this time breaking free down the center for the score. Rosicky also hit the crossbar from 27 yards just eight minutes earlier.
In the second Group E match, Italy defeated Ghana 2-0 on goals by Andrea Pirlo and Vincenzo Iaquinta.
Ghana, much like the other African teams Ivory Coast and Angola, played an evenly matched game against a superior opponent, but couldn’t capitalize on chances. Midfielder Michael Essien’s rocket just outside the penalty box missed the left post by a whisker, and another forceful drive from 22 yards out was saved by Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon on a dive to his right.
by Yoo Jee-ho