Australia's 2-1 victory over Serbia wasn't enough to elevate the team into the round of 16 as the heavyweights of Group D — Germany and Ghana — earned the right to continue their 2010 Fifa World Cup journeys.
For a must-win match, it took a long time to get things in motion.
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Serbia had most of the chances in the opening half, but Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer kept the White Eagles off the scoresheet.
Australia's Tim Cahill, returning from suspension, and Brett Holman scored goals just under four minutes apart in the second half to breathe life into the game and the thousands of Socceroo fans at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, South Africa.
In the end, Pim Verbeek's club couldn't muster any more goals (which they needed for any hope of advancement). Schwarzer's shutout bid was foiled when Serbia's Marko Pantelic scored in the 84th minute.
Australia began its World Cup expedition slowly, which wasn't helped by red cards to two of its top players — Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell — but finished on a high note with the victory.
Serbia, which upset Germany 1-0 earlier in the group stage, head home empty-handed after an up-and-down tournament.
The White Eagles weren't happy with the result of their final game, feeling they should have been awarded a penalty in the waning minutes after a ball deflected off the arm of Cahill during a corner kick.
What this result means
Despite its victory over Serbia, Australia will not advance to the round of 16. Neither will Serbia, for that matter. Germany moves on as the No. 1 seed in Group D, while Ghana takes the second spot on the merits of owning the tiebreaker of goal differential over the Aussies.
Germany plays England in the next round, while Ghana will face the United States.
Holman's goal in the 73rd minute would be the eventual winner. His second goal of the tournament came off a hard, low strike from more than 30 yards out. The substitute picked up the ball just inside the Serbian half, dribbled in unmarked and unleashed the shot past the outstretched arms of Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.
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Urgency and the importance of this game sunk in for both teams 10 minutes into the second half. It was Cahill's goal at the 69-minute mark that not only opened the scoring, but finally opened up what had been a relatively static, lacklustre match.
Man of the match
Back from suspension after picking up a red card in Australia's opener, Cahill inspired his squad in his return, scoring the game's first goal and giving the Serbian fullbacks a player to be wary of.
Goal of the match
Tough call between scorers Cahill and Holman, but Cahill's goal gets the nod. The five-foot-10 striker elevated himself to new heights to powerfully head home Luke Wilkshire's cross past a helpless Stojkovic. And perhaps Cahill should get best goal celebration too for his boxing with the corner flag.
The Australian perspective
"I'm just disappointed we don't go through. We have four points, I thought it might be enough. In the end the goal difference against Germany killed us." — Australia coach Pim Verbeek.
The Serbian perspective
"This was a game of good quality. I cannot reproach any of my players for their effort. We had plenty of opportunities. We deserved much more than we got." — Serbian coach Radomir Antic.