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Socceroos beat All Whites – but only just

But heaven help them in South Africa if this is where they’re at three weeks out from the World Cup.

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In what was supposed to be a farewell celebration, the world’s 20th rated team laboured from a goal down to snatch an unconvincing 2-1 win over 78th-ranked New Zealand with the last kick of the match.

Substitute Brett Holman broke New Zealand hearts with a left-foot strike from close range off Carl Valeri’s clever chip.

The All Whites dominated for large spells of the game, created by far the best chances and sent alarm bells ringing through Pim Verbeek’s squad before a subdued crowd of 55,000.

Perhaps most worryingly for the the Australian defenders, they looked vulnerable in the air, and it was Shane Smeltz’s flicked header that allowed Chris Killen to score the only goal of the first half.

He sneaked behind Mark Milligan to give debutant goalkeeper Adam Federici, filling in for the injured Mark Schwarzer, a nightmare start to his international career.

Federici was one of five half-time changes made by Verbeek, who also experimented with replacements for Grella, Cahill, Craig Moore and Mark Bresciano.

Even Australia’s equaliser had a touch of fortune about it.

Substitute Dario Vidosic did his chances of making Australia’s 23-man World Cup squad no harm with a clinical finish, but he was played through by a ricochet off a Kiwi defender.

At times the Socceroos were reduced to looking like second-rate thugs.

Vince Grella was lucky to avoid a straight red card for an appalling double-footed tackle on Leo Bertis.

Tim Cahill was booked minutes later for an ill-considered challenge that had the same player stretchered off.

Verbeek can thank his lucky stars that his last match on Australian soil gave the Socceroos bragging rights from the first trans-Tasman face-off in five years.

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