South Africa's Teko Modise scored a fantastic second-half equaliser to ensure Australia did not come out on top of this London friendly encounter in rescuing a 2-2 draw.
The South Africans led at QPR's Loftus Road Stadium thanks to an early goal from Siyabonga Nkosi before goals from Joshua Kennedy and Mile Sterjovski gave the Australians a half-time lead. Modise, of Orlando Pirates, had the final say, however, as he drilled home a spectacular shot early in the second half.
Both of these sides are already looking towards the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, which South Africa qualify for automatically as host nation. Australia must, by contrast, progress to the tournament by making it through the final Asian qualifying stage in a group also containing Japan, Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Qatar.
Australia were given a boost in this match as Scott Chipperfield made his first appearance of the year for the national side, following a foot injury that forced him to miss the previous eight internationals. Fulham's Mark Schwarzer was given a start in goal for the Socceroos and is now his nation's ninth most capped player, level with former defender Milan Ivanovic.
South Africa manager Joel Santana has come under criticism following recent results, but this performance, particularly in the second half, will certainly have given supporters hope for the future. There are fears that Bafana Bafana may not qualify for the next CAF Africa Cup of Nations after a poor start to qualifying, but the manager recalled Benni McCarthy in attack alongside Nkosi. The Blackburn Rovers striker was making his first appearance since missing Nations Cup matches earlier this year, and was often left in attack on his own as his strike partner dropped deep to link up play.
The first chance of the game fell to Australia on six minutes. South Africa's Aaron Mokoena was shown a yellow card for a tug on Scott McDonald just outside the penalty box, but midfielder Vincenzo Grella missed the target with the resulting free kick. Sterjovski had a chance soon afterwards, but it was South Africa who broke the deadlock on 21 minutes.
Following a backheel from McCarthy, Nkosi found himself some space on the edge of the penalty area and drove the ball into the corner of the net. It was a fantastic strike from the forward who plays for German side Arminia Bielefeld, but the lead lasted only four minutes.
It was then that Australia's Grella unlocked the South African defence with a long ball, which Sterjovki latched on to on the edge of the area to poke the ball over goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.
The Aussies could have moved in front had they converted good opportunites in the following six minutes. Yet McDonald had a shot saved, and Joshua Kennedy's header drifted just wide. Before half-time, Karlsruhe forward Kennedy did find the net, though.
On 36 minutes Mark Bresciano swung a free kick in from the right flank, and Kennedy jumped in front of Khune and directed the ball into the net. South Africa responded in fantastic fashion after the break, and McCarthy provided the inspiration. On 55 minutes his wonderful footwork teed up Panathinaikos full-back Bryce Moon on the right byline, and his cutback was met by Modise, who drilled brilliantly into the top right hand corner of the net.
McCarthy is still short of match fitness, and was substituted with 18 minutes remaining. In his absence Australia began to dominate once again, yet struggled to make the most of their opportunities. Kennedy and substitute Bruce Djite both failed when they were presented with chances from good positions and the Socceroos had to settle for the draw.