A slick Egypt side gave Socceroos coach Holger Osieck plenty to think about before January’s Asian Cup by thumping Australia 3-0 in Wednesday night’s friendly in Cairo.
Strikes from Ahmed Abdul-Zaher, Mohamed Nagy and Mohamed Zidan were enough to provide the first defeat of Osiek’s short time in charge of the national team.
The Socceroos were chasing a decent hit-out against a skilful, quick side before the Asian Cup, and the African champions, who are 11th in the Fifa rankings, provided that.
It was the last match before Osieck picks his squad for the tournament in Qatar and he won’t be thrilled about his side’s most recent showing.
Some of the defensive lapses are going to be of particular concern.
Fresh from leading Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa to victory in the Asian Champions League, Sasa Ognenovski made his international debut at the age of 31.
He became skipper Lucas Neill’s latest central defensive partner, Scott McDonald earning a start up front while Mile Jedinak bumped out Carl Valeri for a midfield position.
On a clear autumn night, the 76,000 capacity Cairo International Stadium was a third full at best but those that turned up made their presence heard.
The Australian defence was tested out early on with goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer called into action on more than one occasion.
The Socceroos’ early attacks consisted largely of Luke Wilkshire launching long balls against the compressed Egyptian defence before Tim Cahill fluffed a great chance in the 25th minute.
Having been played in by Brett Holman, the in-form Everton star splayed his left foot shot wide.
Four minutes later, the home side pounced.
The Socceroos’ defence was opened up and Abdul-Zaher found the back of the net from ten metres out for the opener.
Brett Emerton was taken off for precautionary reasons in the 34th minute, replaced by Richard Garcia.
Australia looked shaky at the back with Schwarzer failing to meet a ball in the opening minute of the second half while Jedinak muscled up in putting Islam Awad into the advertising boards.
But the tourists were exposed by some sloppy work in the 59th minute.
Substitute Ahmed Elmehamady burst down the right flank and put in a fine cross that Egyptian star striker Mohamed Nagy drilled home just moments after coming on the pitch.
Holman got himself in a dangerous position a minute later but was closed down and the chance went begging.
Cahill continued to find space in the box but could not put his headers on target, before Neill wrapped up a forgettable performance for the visitors conceding a penalty when he was adjudged to have pushed Nagy in the back.
Mohamed Zidan rifled his shot to Schwarzer’s right in the 89th minute to complete Australia’s miserable evening.
The Pharaohs made a mockery of their poor start to their 2012 African Nations Cup qualifying, having failed to beat Sierra Leone at home and losing last week in Niger.
Australia’s next match is against the United Arab Emirates on January 5 in the lead-up to the Asian Cup, where they meet India, South Korea and Bahrain in the group stages.