With all four teams still able to clinch a place in the last 16, there will be plenty at stake when Australia and Serbia meet for the first time in a competitive encounter. The match could hardly have aroused more excitement Down Under, where a Serbian sports club in Sydney – the Bonnyrigg Sports Club, to be precise – will be showing the game live at 4am.
After kicking off with a humbling 4-0 loss to Germany, Australia regained a certain amount of pride when they followed up with a 1-1 draw against Ghana. Their prospects remain slight, however, given they must now overcome Serbia and hope the Black Stars get the better of Germany to seal their advance. As for the Plavi, they sprung an upset by downing Joachim Low's group favourites 1-0 in the wake of their loss to Ghana by the same scoreline so providing Germany lose their last match, a draw will be enough to qualify.
Aiding his cause, coach Radomir Antic welcomes Aleksandar Lukovic back against the Socceroos following his sending-off in the first game. Opposite number Pim Verbeek will be deprived of the services of both Harry Kewell, sent off against Ghana, and Craig Moore, suspended after collecting a pair of cautions, but on the plus side he is able to restore Tim Cahill to the starting XI. Australia have never lost a competitive game in which the Everton man has found the net. Four years ago, Australia faced another Balkan side needing a result when they took on Croatia desperate for the point that would take them through to the Round of 16. On that occasion they sealed a 2-2 draw and continued their adventure, but this time nothing short of a win will suffice.
Chelsea’s Serbia defender and Blackburn’s Australia midfielder have already crossed paths three times this season, with the Londoners winning 5-0 at Stamford Bridge and drawing 1-1 at Ewood Park, either side of a League Cup tie in which penalties were required at the end of a 3-3 stalemate. Emerton found the net with 64 minutes gone and also converted his spot-kick as Blackburn prevailed, while compatriot Vincenzo Grella came on as a substitute and likewise found the net in the shoot-out.
0 – Australia have never defeated a European side at the FIFA World Cup, having recorded four losses and one draw. That solitary draw came against Croatia at Germany 2006.
What they said
"We’re still on course for qualification. We’ll go into the next match with a huge amount of confidence and the certainty that we have the means to win it. This is the World Cup, a huge competition that we couldn’t wait to contest, so our catastrophic start was very disappointing,” Brett Emerton, Australia midfielder.
"We’re keeping our feet on the ground and we now have to concentrate on Australia and not underestimate them. They’ve got a lot of character. We need to play the way we did against Germany,” Radosav Petrovic, Serbia midfielder.
Voice of the fans
"A victory over Australia will take us through to the last 16 whatever happens. Thank you for the win which restored our hope! We have to do as our brothers from Croatia did in ’98,” FIFA.com user Serbe92.
Will Australia succeed in ending their jinx against European teams on the world stage and celebrate a maiden win?