Socceroos star Tim Cahill believes Australia was the victim of bad refereeing and bad sportsmanship as they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat in their opening World Cup game against Chile in Cuiaba.
After falling 2-0 down in the opening 15 minutes, a Cahill-inspired comeback gave Australia hope of a draw as Chile wilted, only for them to clinch a third goal in injury time.
However, it was the performance of Ivory Coast referee Noumandiez Doue that drew Cahill’s ire, saying Chile were given a succession of favourable decisions.
“As for some of the calls, it was beyond me how we didn’t get some calls,” Cahill said after the match. “They [Chile] were getting a lot in their favour tonight.”
Cahill reckoned one incident where a defender had a fistful of his shirt should have been a clear penalty.
“We had talks with FIFA officials about any sort of handling on your shirt, where they said it would be dealt with strictly,” he said.
In another incident, involving Chilean left-back Eugenio Mena, Cahill said he was awarded a yellow card when it should have been given the other way.
“In the first-half, there was an incident where the left-back elbowed me and kicked out at me when I was trying to run past him for a cross, and I’ve got the yellow card,” he said. “I called him a cheat and he said “Yes, I’m a cheat, so what?”. That’s not [ethical] gamesmanship.
“I said to [Arturo] Vidal “This is no good, this needs to be out of the game”. If you gain advantages like that, then fair play, but I just wanted to play, I wanted to get to the back post and make my run. He physically tried to stop me, lost the battle, yet I was the one who got the yellow card.”
The 34-year old felt Chile began resorting to physical behaviour as soon as they realised the match was slipping from their grasp.
“They sensed it, everything started turning into grappling, everything they did started to slow the game down and they were getting a lot of free-kicks in their favour,” he said. “It’s fine, because this is a great learning curve for this team and what we’re trying to do.
"We respect Chile, they’re a great team and they’re going to cause Holland and Spain problems but at the same time, I’d love to play them again in the future and it’s good they give us the same respect and can see that we can play football.”
With Australia so close to snatching a point, Cahill was clear in his mind about how the match was lost.
“In the end, it’s disappointing. I thought that we possibly showed them too much respect in the first 15 minutes. Once we realised that we had to get in their faces, and put a bit more pressure on, they started to weather a bit,” he said. “Overall, I’m really proud of the boys and their performance. This time last week we were talking about how we were going to create chances. We created the chances tonight but unfortunately, everything seemed to go their way.
“We didn’t get the rub of the green at all tonight. It’s frustrating because little circumstances in the game could have been different, especially when you’re out there and you can feel that the tide was starting to turn in our favour.”
Cahill’s first-half goal was his trademark, outjumping Gary Medel to head the ball past the goalkeeper after a looping cross from Ivan Franjic.
“With my goal, once I get the ball in that area, I know where I’m putting the ball,” he said. “That was 100 per cent going in and it just felt great because that’s what we needed to kick-start us and to come back to into the game.
“It’s just frustrating because the two goals we conceded were against the run of play and if we’d been in their faces more we possibly could have stopped them.”
Player ratings: how the Socceroos performed
1 – RYAN (GK) – Tough going for Ryan who was perhaps not given enough protection from the midfield and defence. Still, he let in two goals when the match was still in its infancy and copped a third at the death. Can only get better. Rating: 5.
2 – FRANJIC – Put in the cross that led to Australia’s opener but was questionably positioned for Chile’s second goal. Needed to have a steadier head. His night ended prematurely with injury affecting his chance to have a bigger impact. Rating: 4
3 – DAVIDSON – Didn’t quite get his angles right early, especially when Mat Ryan needed support for Chile’s opening goal. Improved as the match went on, battling away against the brilliant Alexis Sanchez. Rating: 6
4 – CAHILL – A typical Cahill performance with a typical Cahill goal. With a bit of luck, he could have easily had another. He pulled Australia out of their early slumber single-handily. Rating: 7
5 – MILLIGAN – Was one of the Socceroos better performers when few others stood tall early but didn’t have a major impact later on. Rating 5.
6 – SPIRANOVIC – After shining against Croatia, the pulsing energy of this contest was a bigger ask. Like several others, worked his way into the game and won some headers and made some nice clearances. Rating 6.
7 – LECKIE – Full marks for effort but not always for execution. Never stopped running at both ends of the pitch and played his role in Australia’s opener. Thrived in the open spaces and will definitely keep his spot. Rating 6.
11 – OAR – The left-winger looked a solid outlet in the first 45 minutes but was hooked by Ange Postecoglou midway through the second half. Couldn’t quite get the best from his partnership with Davidson. Rating 5.
15 - JEDINAK(C) – Found the going tough in the heat and against an exceptionally mobile Chilean midfield. Wanted to impose his will on the game but the pattern of the match didn’t play into his hands.Rating 5.
22 – WILKINSON – This was never going to be easy for Wilkinson as he plugged away manfully despite being overwhelmed. Cleared a certain goal off the line but found the quality of the opponent extremely difficult. Rating 5.
23 – BRESCIANO - Looked badly off the pace in the first half when he was needed the most. However, he lifted in the second 45 minutes and had some key touches before being substituted. Nearly turned his night around with a sparkling volley, only to be denied by Claudio Bravo. Rating: 6.
James Troisi – Couldn’t make the impact he’d have hoped when he came on.
Ben Halloran – Used his pace to good effect when played out of position.
Ryan McGowan – Gave his best when replacing Franjic, did nothing majorly wrong.