Our player ratings might shed some light on why it took penalties for Australia to see off Uzbekistan.
If not for the heroics of men named Mat, this review would not have survived the laptop being hurled at the wall. It was AEDT 4am when Australia finally booked their place in the quarter finals. Fans who made it to work the next day deserve a raise.
With Trent Sainsbury back from his group game suspension, Graham Arnold opted to bench Massimo Luongo and put Mark Milligan back into the midfield.
He may not have told Milligan this as the Socceroo captain played the game deep enough to be an Aquaman extra.
Tonight’s referee must have had a bad day. He decided that most early fouls deserved yellow cards. Someone should tell him that cheddar that young may as well be milk. This might have contributed to make the first half a very conservative display from Australia. With such a tentative opponent, Uzbekistan were able to catch the Socceroo defence napping on a few occasions.
The second half saw the Socceroos dominate. They created a few decent chances but were unable to get passed a determined Nesterov. The return of Matthew Leckie briefly brought the game to life.
Extra time was more of the same.
Winning a game in a penalty shoot out is a glorious thing. Milligan took the first and Nesterov got a hand to it but couldn't stop it. Uzbekistan converted their first. Behich's effort was saved. Giannou was clinical. Robbie Kruse scored a very nice penalty. Then Mat Ryan made a show stopping save low to his right. Up stepped the Mat II – and Australia progressed.
Mathew Ryan - 10
Saved his nation early by shutting out a 10th minute one on one. It was a brilliant save. He then didn’t have much work to do until penalties meant he became Australia’s most important man. His form in the English Premier League has been excellent and he stood up strong tonight. Nesterov was the first keeper to make a save in the shoot out but Mat Ryan matched his effort by holding his ground and stopping a bullet. He then dived low to his right and denied the White Wolves with an iron right hand.
Rhyan Grant - 6
Fullbacks and wingers need to be a synchronised unit linking and supporting each other. Grant and Mabil struggled to combine well in the first half.
Trent Sainsbury - 6
In the lead up to this game, he said that watching his team mates from the stands gave him a different perspective and he learnt a lot. Maybe he should have spent last game napping instead because his first half performance looked like he was catching up on sleep.
Milos Degenek - 6.5
Degenek was smart and strong tonight. He made one dangerous error in extra time but through the balance of the game he was solid.
Aziz Behich - 7
So far, he’s been somewhat quiet this tournament. He turned it up a notch tonight. He made good forward runs and tried to create chances up front. He could have put Australia in front during extra time. He was possibly Australia’s best player during 120 minutes but he couldn’t convert his penalty.