Australia grab late World Cup win over Japan
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany, June 12: Australia stormed to a dramatic late World Cup win over Japan, scoring their first ever goals in the tournament to triumph 3-1.
Substitute Tim Cahill struck twice in the last six minutes to overturn Japan's first-half lead and John Aloisi added a spectacular third for Australia in injury time.
Off the pitch, Togo staged an amazing turnaround of their own when trainer Otto Pfister announced he would return to coach the West African team he walked out on only last week.
Italy, always regarded as title contenders, begin their campaign later on Monday by playing Ghana in Group E.
The United States and the Czech Republic were playing in Gelsenkirchen in the day's other Group E game.
With the pitchside temperature at a sweltering 38 Celsius in the southwestern city of Kaiserslautern, Japan took the lead over Australia with a disputed goal from Shunsuke Nakamura in the 26th minute of their Group F match.
Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer seemed to have been impeded by Atsushi Yanagisawa as he came to punch away Nakamura's cross, which then floated into the net.
But Egyptian referee Esam Abd El Fatah waved away furious protests from Australia.
''In the end justice was done in this game,'' Australia coach Guus Hiddink said.
''I think the referee will thank God for the result.'' Cahill levelled in the 84th minute when a long throw was missed by goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and he drilled the ball in from eight metres.
He made it 2-1 five minutes later with a long-range drive which went in off the post.
Aloisi added the third for Australia, taking part in the finals for the first time since 1974, after skipping through Japan's exhausted defence in injury time.
TOGO TURNAROUND Debutants Togo have provided the most bizarre saga so far in the month-long tournament, which began on Friday.
Pfister, a 68-year-old German, quit as coach saying he could not work because the players and the Togolese football authorities were embroiled in a dispute over pay.
Togolese officials then put assistant coach Kodjovi Mawuena in charge for the first game against South Korea tomorrow. They also began talks with German coach Winfried Schaefer.
But Pfister suddenly announced he had responded to an appeal from his players to return and would be in charge tomorrow.
''The players intervened massively. I received a fax from the (Togolese football association) president and I will sit on the bench as coach of the team tomorrow,'' he told Reuters.
The World Cup finals, the world's most watched sporting event, has so far avoided any major incidents of hooliganism which some experts had feared could overshadow the football.
Instead, trouble has come from an unexpected source the weather.
After weeks of cool temperatures, a heat-wave hit Germany as the Cup began on Friday, taking its toll on the players and casting heavy shadows across some pitches.
FIFA said it would close the roof at Frankfurt's Waldstadion for the Togo-South Korea match to stop shadows spoiling television images for billions of viewers around the world.
But Joerg Kachelmann, the chief meteorologist for Germany's ARD public television network, warned of a ''massive greenhouse'' effect for players and fans.