If truth be told, the first half hour was more #Nervous than #Fearless for the Socceroos.
The fast-passing Chileans came out with a relentless high press that deliberately targeted the relative inexperience of the Australian side. For 30 minutes, they never let the Aussies settle, never gave them a second on the ball, pushed, pushed and pushed until the holes appeared, panic set in and they pounced.
The two goals in 12 minutes blitzkrieg rocked the Socceroos self-confidence even further (and sparked some embarrassing "I told you so" tweets on Twitter which have probably now been deleted...)
But then, as the 30 minute mark rolled round, our fortunes started to turn.
The momentum shifted, the energy went out the Chilean press and the Socceroos finally had time on the ball to compose themselves, time their passes, see their team-mates and find space to run into.
Cahill's goal had a metronymic rhythm to it. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. (Off the ball run). Cross. Header. Goal. The entire move had an unstoppable momentum and inevitability from the second the ball moved into the Chilean half.
In our bar in Vitoria, where five Aussie fans watched alongside three Chileans, we exploded in joy, our cheers joined by those of the many nearby Brazilians who started chanting "OZ-trail -YA, OZ-trail-YA" while we were still giving ourselves high fives.
Not only were we back in the match, but the joy was also the relief at banishing the unspoken fears of another Germany 2010 and at silencing the naysayers who said we wouldn't even score. The belief in Regeneration Ange had been validated.
And so it continued. For the best part of the next hour, we dominated one of the most exciting teams in the world and only a marginal offside call and shirt-tugging defender denied us a deserved draw or maybe even a win.
During the break a Dutch TV crew interviewed us, focusing on their incredible slaughter of Spain and what it meant for Australia...until we reminded them they had never yet beaten us. For the rest of the game, they kept their cameras running, focused on our faces for a reaction when we scored.
I suspect our reaction to the disallowed goal ended up cut and pasted into their report as being our joy when Cahill scored his first...
Their third goal was complacency and possibly a bit of tiredness but failed to take the shine off an otherwise creditable display, full of promise, and one without key players such as Kruse, Rogic and Williams.
The reaction to the game in Australia was possibly more interesting than anything.
It may be a reflection of the growing football intelligence in the country that even the mainstream press has focused on the performance rather than the scoreline.
If anything, the effusive praise went too far - it wasn't Australia's finest moment, it wasn't even (close) to Australia's finest moment in the World Cup. But it was a bloody good effort, and we have every reason to be proud.
Davidson, Leckie and Cahill, always Cahill, were immense, but so too was Wilko with his quick-thinking and fleet-footed save off the goal-line, Jedi was strong in the centre of midfield (although sometimes too strong and a little late!) and Bresc was Bresc.
Oar had a flat game by his high standards, Spiranovic had an okay game but was largely anonymous (although that's not necessarily a bad thing - I'd take that over sliding two-footed studs-up tackles in the box...).
What did seem to be missing was a commanding voice in the backline. I wouldn't have backed Sasa or Lucas to reach that goalline clearance in time like Wilko did (and I'm not sure I would have predicted he'd have made it either, to be honest!)
But we do need someone to bring their authority to organising that backline. Too often it was getting out of shape, players being dragged out of position, gaps appearing and composure vanishing. Someone needs to step into that commanding role, and quick.
Franjic's injury and the decision not to bring Wilkshire could come back to haunt Ange. He's done so much right, but that squad selection could still prove to be ill-considered.
Even if Wilkshire wasn't the right person to have around this playing group, we needed another dedicated option at rightback. McGowan prefers to be a CB and although he can play at RB, he is not the same kind of marauding, free-running fullback that Franjic is.
McGowan will however add steel to the backline for sure - and perhaps that more than anything is what we will need for these last two games, judging by the Netherlands' result over Spain.
Australia already had a mountain to climb. The mountain just got higher...so high we might not even be able to see the summit now.
It will take our finest performances in history to snatch anything from our remaining games and secure a spot in the knockout stage. It looks impossible.
But as literally written into the Socceroos' shirts: Impossible is nothing. Judging by our performance today, it's going to be a helluva ride!
(PS can we get a firm promise from the FFA that we will never EVER wear gold shirts and gold shorts together again? If South Africa are Bafana Bafana, we looked like Banana Banana...)comments