Hi there. I'm Guido, Bleacher Report writer, and I will be your guide through this crucial Group D match between Serbia and Australia.
Both sides desperately need a win in order to progress from the group stage, though the Aussies are also dependent on Ghana beating Germany for that to happen, whilst Serbia need a big win to advance because the Germans have a better goal difference.
So, if you can’t get to a TV, why not follow all the drama and excitement right here on Bleacher Report? Join the conversation and banter by posting your comments below the article; I promise to respond within minutes.
I am not sure why Verbeek didn't start with his team in a more opportunistic fashion. It can't have been a lack of stamina or power, because the Australian side displayed plenty of both once they started playing in a 4-4-2 formation with Holman linking up midfield and attack.
I assume it's because Verbeek didn't want to get surprised by Serbian counter-attacks when he pushed his defence forward, but it made for a very boring game during the first 60 minutes of play.
Serbia dominated the possession and midfield, but failed to penetrate the defence. Zigic was much too static too cause serious problems for the Australian defence.
Bringing on Pantelic definitely helped Serbia improve. His intelligent movement caused more problems for the slow Australian defenders, as was clearly shown by Pantelic' goal and his missed chances and off-side moments.
I wonder what would have happened had Pantelic been given a chance from the start? He had some bad luck with a few off-side decisions in the limited time he got, but I am pretty sure he would have scored more goals had he been given more time to showcase his talents.
Overall, the first 60 minutes were boring, but the last half hour of this match more than made up for it. This is what makes football interesting, high-paced and action-packed plays, with chances for both teams and almost back-to-back goal-scoring opportunities for both sides.
Managers of the world, dare to attack! It makes for more interesting games and as Australia and Serbia showed you today, if you have to win and score goals, it doesn't pay to sit back and wait for the other team to mess up.
In the end, Australia's heroic win was undone by their own poor result versus Germany, which is harsh on the Socceroos.
Germany vs England in the next round, Ghana vs USA
Niiiiiice!!! England versus Germany should be brilliant, though it means I have to sit through a bunch of crap from the British tabloids, countless mentions of "the war" and other ethnic slurs towards Germany. I may watch the game on a German channel, they're more civil there.
Very angry Serbians complain to the referee (just after the final whistle)
The Serbian players mob the referee, arguing they should have had a penalty when Cahill handled the ball inside his own box, a few minutes before the end of the game. I can understand their frustration, but really, they should've played better themselves, less defensive.
Brilliant end to this game (90+3 minutes into the game)
Pantelic just blasted the ball over in an off-side position and in the following Australian counter-attack, Culina misses a one-on-one with Stojkovic. Such fast-paced action-packed plays in the dying seconds of the game.
Serbia deserved a penalty there... (90 minutes into the game)
Cahill handled the ball inside his own box there. That should have been a penalty to Serbia. I can spot a few very angry Serbians in the stands there...
Now this is what I want to see! (89 minutes into the game)
Both teams are playing an all-out attacking game, trying to score goals and actually win the game. Why did I have to sit through 60 minutes of a bore-a-thon before the game turned into this fast-paced action-packed thriller.
Jesus saves, just not this time (87 minutes into the game)
Joshua Kennedy just missed THE chance to put Australia 3-1 up. He controls a long pass well, cuts inside the defender, but his shot lacked accuracy. Shame.
A second off-side goal (85 minutes into the game)
Pantelic must have thought he had become the hero of the Serbian nation there, but he was off-side when the slotted that ball past Schwarzer. Australia needs to be careful, Pantelic is much faster and more intelligent than Zigic, and he runs in behind the defenders to get to through balls.
Serbia pegs one back (84 minutes into the game)
Schwarzer fumbles the ball from a long range effort and Pantelic bags the rebound. Serbia is back in this with a shout. If the game ends in a draw, Serbia could progress after all.
Hypothetically speaking... (82 minutes into the game)
We could be in for fireworks if the Germans get a second versus Ghana, as that means Australia could progress if they win 3-0. Go on then, the USA had their Hollywood-style narrow escape in the dying seconds of the game, the Aussies deserve one as well.
Tireless running by Holman (79 minutes into the game)
That substitute is playing a superb match, running tirelessly and connecting midfield and the attacking line. Australia needed that, someone to backup Kennedy upfront and link up with Cahill as well.
Being opportunistic has paid off for the Aussies (75 minutes into the game)
They have looked more energetic and have created more chances infront of goal. Seriously, they should have switched to this strategy much earlier.
AUSSIE OY AUSSIE OY (73 minutes into the game)
Brett Holman, the subsitute, fires in a magnificent low drive from 25 metres out, which beats Stojkovic. The Aussies are up by 2 goals now and they need 2 more, unless Germany score more goals against Ghana. Goal difference is crucial here and the Aussies are suffering because of their 4-0 defeat to Germany in their opening fixture.
AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE OY OY OY!!! (69 minutes into the game)
Kick and rush is working. A cross from the right wing is headed in by Tim Cahill to give Australia a 1-0 lead. The Socceroos look much more energetic since their change in strategy. Damn you Verbeek, you should have done this half an hour sooner or even better yet, started the game this way!
The bigger they are... (68 minutes into the game)
The sadder they look when they're substituted. Nikola Zigic comes off, Ajax' Marko Pantelic is brought on. Zigic was rather ineffective upfront, so good riddance.
Verbeek seems to have understood the message (66 minutes into the game)
Valeri off for Bret Holman and Scott Chipperfield on for Mark Bresciano. Both substitutes are more offense-minded than the players they replaced. Looks like Verbeek is finally taking a chance. It's about time he made an effort to actually win this game.
Kick and rush revival! (63 minutes into the game)
The Australians are using a more simplistic strategy now. They are kicking the ball long for Kennedy to head through or Cahill to run onto. It looks more energetic and it actually works too. Bresciano gets a shot off and forces a quality save out of Stojkovic.
Germany scores! (60 minutes into the game)
Mesut Özil scores for Germany, which just puts Serbia and Australia in even bigger trouble. Australia need Ghana to win and they have to win to stand a realistic chance, whereas Serbia have to win now to qualify. England versus Germany in the next round!
Do they actually realise that qualification for the second round is at stake here? (58 minutes into the game)
I thought things were picking up a bit, but it appears to have been a momentary lapse in the game. We have seen some hard fouls, but no real chances so far. Lacklustre performance by both sides so far.
Seal-dribble by Zigic (54 minutes into the game)
Kerlon got famous for his seal dribble, but Nikola Zigic does it as well. Not as elegant as Kerlon and not as long, but he bounces the ball off his head twice to set himself up for a volley, which goes narrowly over the goal. Nice. More please.
Things are getting a bit more unfriendly (52 minutes into the game)
The players are fouling each other with little professional fouls. Obradovic steps on Wilkshire's toes, Kennedy and Lukovic clash. No further cards, but both teams appear to realise they have to improve their game and play a bit more aggressive.
Two quick yellows for Australia (50 minutes into the game)
Beauchamp and Wilkshire get cautioned for persistent fouling. Serbia are trying to involve their wingers a bit more, but that hasn't led to any real chances so far.
No changes at half-time (46 minutes into the game)
So I reckon neither Antic nor Verbeek has felt the urge to take a chance and try to make it past the group stage. Interesting detail, a Germany versus England match in the second round remains a possibility.
So far, it's been a pretty uneventful game, as you can probably tell by my updates so far. Serbia, as stated before, are definitely the better side, but they are not creating many real chances. Zigic seems ineffective on his own upfront, I would suggest adding a second striker who can pounce on the balls Zigic heads on.
The Serbian wingers have looked menacing at times, especially Milos Krasic. He got into two one-on-ones with Australia's Mark Schwarzer, but he missed the first chance and got caught off-side the second time.
I do think Serbia should try to involve these wingers more, as they can either create space for their own dribbles or cross it for that large and bulky striker Nikola Zigic. Serbia are not really Zigic' strengths to their benefit, most of the balls he got so far were played into his feet.
Australia have looked sturdy at the back. Barring a single one-on-one for Krasic on a counter-attack after a well cleared corner, the Aussies haven't given away any real goal-scoring opportunities to their Balkan counterparts.
If Australia want to score and get chance at qualifying, they need to re-think their strategy. If they keep playing like this, they can play on for 900 minutes instead of 90 and still not score a goal.
Both teams should be playing to win (45 minutes into the game)
Yet it's apparent only Serbia is actually trying to score a goal. Australia is defending and trying to counter-attack, and failing miserably at the latter task. The Serbians also look harmless, mostly because the Australians are playing with a compact and deep-lying defence, so space for the forwards is scarce.
Intricate Serbian passing (42 minutes into the game)
Serbia's passing game is really nice, but the Australians have built a sort of human wall around their own box which means the Serbian passes fail to connect with anyone in a scoring position. The Serbian wingers get the odd cross in, but the majority of these are harmless, despite the presence of the gigantic Nikola Zigic.
Off-side goal for Krasic (38 minutes into the game)
Krasic gets on the end off a brilliant through-ball and finishes cleanly. Shame he was off-side. A brief moment of hilarity, the home-crowd doesn't seem to know what off-side is and celebrates the goal upto a minute after play has been re-started.
No red card for Australia, so far... (36 minutes into the game)
Both against Ghana and Germany, the Aussies were reduced to 10 men right after the half hour mark. So far, so good against Serbia, especially when you consider the referee is infamous for handing out red cards.
Serbia are dominating without creating chances, Australia hopes for a counter-attack (32 minutes into the game)
The European side is dominating in terms of possession and overall performance, but as said before, they haven't created much in the past twenty minutes. They got a single chance when Krasic got into a one-on-one with Schwarzer, but that's about it. A few long range efforts, but nothing spectacular.
The Aussies are trying to lure more Serbians onto their own defence, before launching counter-attacks. Well, trying to launch counter-attacks. That strategy hasn't really worked for them so far, but it's a sound strategy in principle. They need to pass more accurately for it to work.
Kennedy reminds me of someone famous... (28 minutes into the game)
Can you tell I'm bored? Not much happening on the pitch. Serbia are passing it around rather nicely, but they're unable to penetrate the Aussie defence, so I'm entertaining myself by comparing the players to celebrities. Joshua Kennedy sort of looks like someone famous, I heard it's actually his nickname Down Under. Do you know who I mean?
That's right, he sort of looks like Jesus. No offence intended to anyone deeply Christian here.
Antic seems antsy (24 minutes into the game)
Pardon the poor pun. Antic looks nervous, he keeps walking to the touchline and shouting instructions to his players. It's still 0-0 over at Ghana versus Germany, which means both Serbia and Australia are out.
Not a very brilliant game so far (21 minutes into the game)
The Serbians can't get the ball to Zigic properly, so he can't the ball up for the midfielders to link up and attack the Australian goal. Australia faces a similar problem, because they can't reach Kennedy.
Random note, where are the Aussie fans? (15 minutes into the game)
I am used to the Australian fans chanting "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi", but I haven't heard one of those. Are they being drowned out by the vuvuzela's or are there not that many Aussies present? Added a little video to show which chant I am referring to...
Australia's defence gets out-paced (12 minutes into the game)
A fast Serbian counter-attack slices open the Australian defence, which indeed pushed higher up the pitch for a corner and got out-paced by Milos Krasic, who got into a one-on-one with Schwarzer. He managed to get past the goalie, but lobs the ball wide of the empty Australian net.
Both sides seem reluctant to really press forward so far (10 minutes into the game)
Sure, both sides have tried to set up a few attacks, but both sides keep plenty of players behind the ball, even when going forward. It would appear both sides fear the others fast counter-attack. If there is any danger for the goals, it's generally created by a winger crossing or cutting inside to shoot.
Krasic is being booed (6 minutes into the game)
I guess that's what you get for diving in the box and trying to win a penalty. Every time the Serbian winger has touched the ball so far, he is being booed by the home crowd. Fair play above all, it seems.
Zigic is HUUUGE!!! (2 minutes into the game)
Seriously, I know the guy is tall, but he makes the Aussie defenders look like dwarves. He looks a bit clumsy though, like a Serbian Peter Crouch... Well, he's more muscular, not quite as skinny... He's just huge then.
That's sweet... (2 minutes before kick-off)
After they played the anthems and shook hands, I saw how Serbia captain Dejan Stankovic handed his jacket to one of the children who had accompanied him onto the pitch. I assume the kid got to keep the jacket. Cool gesture. Really, I appreciate stuff like that.
My expectations (10 minutes before kick-off)
I'm expecting Serbia to win here. Their team is just better overall and they actually have some decent forwards who are capable of scoring a goal, as well as a defence which can keep a clean sheet.
Australia are playing too conservative for my liking, with these defenders, they have no other option though. If they push further up the pitch, they are inviting the fast Serbian wingers to get in behind the defenders.
Updated line-ups (15 minutes before kick-off)
Honestly, I should find a new site for my predicted line-ups, Livescore.com always get it wrong...
[ 4-2-3-1 ]
[ 4-5-1 ]
Some Serbia Trivia (20 minutes before kick-off)
Did you know that...
- the Serbian team is nicknamed Beli Orlovi (White Eagles)? Talk about a cliché nickname...
- 19 players in the 23-man squad have a last name that ends with -ic?
- only 2 players in the 23-man squad are contracted to a Serbian club? Talk about a journeyman squad, all the other players are playing abroad.
Some Australia Trivia (30 minutes before kick-off)
Did you know that...
- Australia hold the record for biggest win in international football? They once beat American Samoa 31-0...
- during this 31-0 win, Archie Thompson scored 13 goals in a single match, which is also a world record? Poor Archie was dropped from the team for the next match though, despite scoring 13 goals...
- the Australian team is nicknamed the Socceroos, combining the words soccer and kangaroo?
- Australia was involved in a World Cup match where referee Graham Poll issued three yellow cards to the same player? The player was Australia-born Croatian defender Josip Simunic.
- a single New Zealand team, Wellington Phoenix, is allowed to compete in Australia's professional football division, the A-League?
Red Card Controversy Referee (75 minutes before kick-off)
Normally, I don't really care about a referee. If it's a good referee, you generally don't even notice him. I do however feel that Jorge Larrionda deserves his own moment of fame in this report.
The Uruguayan referee is known for the high number of red cards he shows during matches. He was also involved in a controversy surrounding Team USA and Italy during the 2006 World Cup, when he sent off three players during a single match. Eddie Pope, Pablo Mastroeni and Daniele de Rossi were sent off, much to the dismay of several American pundits.
In a match where both sides are looking for a win, desperately looking for a win even, it could be interesting to see what happens with a referee on the pitch who is known for his disciplinarian style of leading a match and willingness to send players off.
Reactions to the predicted line-uos (80 minutes before kick-off)
Bit disappointed at Serbia, Antic appears to have opted for Lazovic and Jovanovic as wingers to support Zigic, which in reality means some sort of attacking 4-5-1 formation. Not sure that will help to break down the Aussie defences.
Zigic is an enormous striker, over 2 metres tall, but his main strength lies in the air, which happens to be the strongest point of the Australian defence. I would much rather have seen two fast strikers who can run at the Australian defenders or try to get in behind them.
Nothing odd about the Australian line-up. Verbeek has opted for Holman upfront, who will try to link up with Cahill to cause mayhem for the Serbian defenders. I'm still not sure if Verbeek actually wants to win this match, judging by the way he is sending out his team...
Predicted line-ups (90 minutes before kick-off)
As always, presented by Livescore.com
[ 4-2-3-1 ]
[ 4-1-4-1 ]
Serbia Preview: Dark Horses should step it up a bit!
Serbia have been hyped up as potential overachievers for this World Cup, but so far they have only showed glimpses of their true potential. They were rather poor versus Ghana and they got lucky with a red card to Klose and Podolski's poor penalty effort versus the Germans.
On paper, the Serbians have a well balanced team. A reliable goalie, a solid defence starring the likes of Man Utd's Vidic and Chelsea's Ivanovic, a balanced midfield with Internazionale's Stankovic as the playmaker and dangerous forwards in Zigic and either Jovanovic, Pantelic or Lazovic.
Manager Radomir Antic is an experienced manager, capable of outfoxing most managers. His palmares includes a title win at Atlético Madrid and a spell at Barcelona, so he should be able to surprise his opponents when necessary.
The Serbs will probably field a 4-4-2 formation and play to win. No sense in playing for a draw and hoping Ghana beat the Germans, when you can just go out and try to beat Australia.
Australia Preview: Mission Impossible?!
The Aussies face the arduous task of trying to defeat a very strong Serbian side, whilst suffering from bans themselves. Star player Harry Kewell is unavailable, whilst Tim Cahill returns from a suspension.
The Socceroos have so far faced off in a defensive 4-2-3-1, which hasn't exactly worked wonders for them. The Australian defence is slow and old, but strong the air, so they have to play deep to prevent being caught with space behind them, so it does sort of make sense.
On the other hand, when you're trying to win a game, you can't afford to play with a deep-lying defensive line, because the gaps between midfield and defence will become enormous, which in turn puts even more pressure on the team.
I'm not sure who will be playing upfront for the Aussies. With Kewell out, it could be Joshua Kennedy, a big and strong targetman, or it could be Brett Holman, a pacey and mobile player, who is more of a shadow striker than an actual forward.
Either way, Australia manager Pim Verbeek is faced with a difficult task. His team has to attack, but their main strength lies in defence, whilst the team can't afford to give away too much space because of the lack of pace in their defence.