Wonder strike from Tim Cahill not enough to save Australia as Socceroos lose 3-2 to the Netherlands.
Porto Alegre: For four glorious second-half minutes it looked as if Australia might be on the verge of perhaps their greatest ever World Cup result when Mile Jedinak's penalty added to Tim Cahill's first-half wonder strike to put them 2-1 up against the rampaging Netherlands in this Group B fixture in Porto Alegre.
But the Dutch were able to gather themselves, draw level and finally see off the gallant challenge of their indefatigable opponents, who, in contrast to their opening match, at no stage looked overawed and gave a marvellous account of themselves.
In the end it wasn't quite enough as Memphis Depay's long-range shot and goalkeeper Mat Ryan's blunder - he was too slow and late to get down to keep out what looked like a regulation effort from distance - was enough to give The Netherlands a 3-2 win and a spot in the second round. If they can see off Chile in their final match they will top the group and likely avoid Brazil in the knock out phase.
For Australia now there is nothing left to play for save pride when they face defending champions Spain after two defeats in frustrating circumstances.
If anyone was in any doubt whatsoever that Tim Cahill is Australia's greatest Socceroo, surely there can be no dispute now.
The veteran frontman scored what might be the goal of the World Cup with a sumptuous left-footed volley which rattled the cross bar before bulging the net to bring Australia level with The Netherlands barely a minute after the Dutch had taken the lead in this second fixture in Group B.
It is, however, surely the last World Cup goal Australia's talisman will ever strike. The former Everton man was booked late in the first half challenge on Bruno Martins Indi and is suspended from the final game.
It could be said that, like the Thane of Cawdor in Macbeth, nothing became his (footballing) life like the leaving of it, so dramatic was his goal.
Holland had hit the front through flying winger Arjen Robben in the 20th minute after the Bayern Munich star had burnt off Alex Wilkinson and all other Australian challengers before bursting into the penalty area and driving an angled shot past Mat Ryan.
Up to that point the Socceroos, long shots against the side that had humiliated Spain 5-1 in their opening match, had given as good as they had got.
Ange Postecoglou had gone into this game without injured duo Ivan Franjic and Mark Milligan, his first choice right back and central midfielder respectively, but the Socceroos did not miss a beat.
Looking far calmer and more assured than they had in that disastrous opening spell against Chile when they conceded two goals, they stuck to their template of retaining possession, pressing the Dutch and looking to hit hard when they got the ball into the forward third.
The Netherlands were expected to swat Australia aside, but that's not how it turned out in a game played in cooler conditions with plenty of physical challenges being allowed by Algerian referee Djamel Hammoudi, giving the fixture a European feel.
Australia pressed the Netherlands hard all over the pitch, not allowing the fancied Oranje to settle into any kind of rhythm and flow.
Matthew Leckie, outstanding against Chile, showed that was no one-off with another display of pace and power down the right that unsettled the Dutch defence every time he ran at them while Cahill, playing with the vigour and commitment that has always been his trademark, did what he always does: battled for every ball, whether in the air or on the ground.
The Dutch it was who often reverted to long balls down the channels as they sought to harness Robben's speed.
At least the Bayern flyer managed to get on the ball: his esteemed strike partner Robin van Persie was an anonymous figure in the opening half as he was dealt with by Matthew Spiranovic and Alex Wilkinson.
In fact The Netherlands began to look a bit rattled and out of sorts with themselves as Australia's in your face tactics, allied to their disciplined structure, made this more difficult than they might have expected.
Even when they did make the breakthrough - after Mark Bresciano lost possession Robben's pace was too much for Wilkinson, whom he turned and accelerated away from - things did not pan out as expected.
Australia came straight back and within 60 seconds were back on terms thanks to Cahill's amazing strike.
Cahill is renowned for his aerial ability, but this was a goal straight out of a Boy's Own comic as he hit the ball , floated over from the right by Ryan McGowan, with perfect precision on the full to leave Jasper Cillesssen in the Dutch goal rooted to the spot with no chance.
It immediately evoked comparisons with great volleys by some of the game's biggest names, like Marco Van Basten and Zinedine Zidane who struck sumptuous goals on the biggest stages.
Australia did not sit back, and true to their coach's word, kept their shape but kept pressing on against their rattled opponents.
The Socceroos had a terrific opportunity to take a shock lead not long after when Leckie, with another of those powerful speedy forays down the right skipped past the challenge of Ron Vlaar and squared for Bresciano, but the midfielder's shot was too high and soared over the Dutch crossbar.
Leckie did have the ball in the net within seconds of the restart, but it was disallowed for an obvious foul by the striker as he looked to create space.
Bresciano made way for Oliver Bozanic shortly after the restart, and the diminutive midfielder made an immediate impact with his first run forward, his cross striking the hand of Dutch midfielder Daryl Janmaat to give Australia a penalty.
Skipper Jedinak took responsibility and stepped forward, blasting a firm strike low into Cillessen's left hand corner giving the goalkeeper no chance.
A shock to rival Costa Rica's upset win over Uruguay now looked on the cards, but there was still more than half an hour to go and the Dutch, though reeling, were always going to get some chances.
And within four minutes they were level, a through ball from outside the penalty area picking up the unmarked van Persie, who needed little invitation to lash past Ryan. Replays showed that the Manchester United striker had just evaded the flag, Jason Davidson keeping him onside.
Moments later Ryan had to be alert to block Robben's shot at the near post as the game really caught fire.
Australia had a great chance to take the lead when McKay intercepted the ball on the edge of the Dutch penalty area and fed Tommy Oar. The Dutch based winger might have shot, but instead fired a cross over which Leckie met but could only direct straight at Cillessen.
Such was the ebb and flow of this game however, that more goals seemed assured, and it was the Dutch who regained their momentum a minute later when substitute Memphis Depay struck from long range with his first international goal.
The PSV Eindhoven striker fired from outside the penalty area and Ryan reacted too slowly getting down late and not getting enough on it to keep it out. At this level those are the sort of shots that have to be saved.
Ryan partially made amends minutes later when he produced a fine diving save low to his right to deny Nigel de Jong a fourth goal for Holland, giving the Socceroos hope that they still might get something out of this match.
The Socceroos pressed to the end, throwing bodies forward in search of an unlikely equaliser, but it was not to be.
Australia might now be out of this World Cup, but they depart this game with plenty to be proud of having given one of the world's best national teams an almighty fright, and having played the game in the ''right'' manner.
If they can retain this momentum over the next six months then the auguries for the Asian Cup, which they host, are good indeed.