Striker Joshua Kennedy’s 71st-minute goal gave Australia a 1-0 win over Denmark on Tuesday in a World Cup warmup game.
Kennedy outmuscled Liverpool defender Daniel Agger before turning to shoot past Stephan Andersen at Ruimsig Stadium — just outside Johannesburg — where more than 2,000 fans turned out for a first taste of international football ahead of the World Cup.
Denmark’s best chance fell to midfielder Christian Poulsen, but his half-volley was pushed away by Aussie goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Denmark coach Morten Olsen then added more fuel to the debate raging about the official World Cup ball, calling it difficult to control.
"We played with an impossible ball and we need to get used to it," Olsen said. "This is not an excuse but a cause. … We had difficulty in controlling the ball."
South Africa’s Jabulani ball, made by World Cup sponsor Adidas, has received stinging criticism from players ahead of the tournament. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon joined the chorus earlier Tuesday when he said that "every touch comes with the unknown".
The ball displayed its unpredictable behavior after just four minutes in Roodepoort when Denmark defender Lars Jacobsen drove a free kick which swerved wildly past Schwarzer’s right post.
Olsen and Australia coach Pim Verbeek named strong lineups for the friendly, but both teams struggled to create chances in their first outing in South Africa.
Everton’s Tim Cahill was in the Socceroos’ starting team, alongside captain Lucas Neill and midfielder Vincenzo Grella. Denmark fielded veteran striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, alongside Agger and Poulsen.
Poulsen’s second-half effort from outside the penalty area tested Schwarzer but the lanky Kennedy, of Japanese J-League club Nagoya Grampus, settled things for the Socceroos with just under 20 minutes to play.
Both countries have one more friendly scheduled this weekend before their World Cup openers.
Australia plays the United States at Roodepoort, and Denmark takes on host South Africa in Pretoria.
Australia faces Germany, Ghana and Serbia in Group D at the World Cup. Denmark will play the Netherlands, Cameroon and Japan.