VIDEO: Draw with Cameroon leaves Socceroos' hopes dangling
HONOURS even in St Petersburg between Australia and Cameroon. And a shared fate, too, in this Confederations Cup, a 1-1 draw between the African and Asian champions in all likelihood ending both teams' hopes of progress to the semi-finals.
A result and performance, too, that will raise further questions about Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou's claim that his side are ready to mix it at the top end of world football. If either side deserved to win it was Cameroon.
After Germany and Chile also played out a 1-1 draw, Australia must beat Chile by two clear goals in three days' time. An outcome that seems almost certainly beyond this honest but, in this company at least, limited team.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa had given Cameroon a deserved lead just before the break, latching on to a long ball over the top and beating Mat Ryan with an outstretched flick.
Socceroos captain Mark Milligan levelled from the penalty spot after the break, but Australia could not kick on from there to the win.
In truth they were hanging on in the dying stages, Cameroon full of power and pace in the last 15 minutes and looking the more likely to seal the win.
A shot count of 19 to five in Cameroon's favour certainly told the story of who was forcing the issue more.
However, Postecoglou saw it differently, insisting "it was a pretty even game" and praising his side's commitment to their game plan.
"I think we controlled large parts of it," he said. "They were every dangerous on transition and a couple of times got in behind us.
"We lacked a little bit of composure in the final third to get some meaningful chances. But we still had chances, particularly in the early part of the second half.
"There's certainly progression there, and they didn't give up. There's a real spirit in the team."
Postecoglou made two changes from the side that started against Germany. Alex Gersbach replaced Aziz Behich in the left wing back role after Behich was tormented by the world champions, and Robbie Kruse promoted to a starting berth after his decisive contribution to the Socceroos' improved second half showing in Sochi, with Massimo Luongo benched.
The pace and zip that Australia showed in the second period against Germany when Kruse was introduced, however, was largely absent from their play in the first period in St Petersburg. The Socceroos dominated the ball and held a solid shape, but Cameroon seemed happy for them to play across the back, the Africans also showing in flashes the threat they carried going forward, especially on the counter attack.
What half chances there were in a subdued opening half-hour went Australia's way, though nothing truly clear cut was created. Kruse shot from distance straight at the goalkeeper. Rogic tried to dance through a crowd scene in the Cameroon box, but was beaten by weight of numbers.
On 20 minutes, Rogic found space in the attacking third of the pitch with a neat turn, fed the impressive Gersbach down the left, his cross just beyond the diving Juric when the goal beckoned.
For all Australia's neat and tidy play, they were forced on to the back foot as the half drew to a close, a sustained period of pressure finally telling in Cameroon's favour moments before the break.
Australia struggled to clear a succession of corners. Even when the ball was cleared, it swiftly came back. On one break back in to the Australian half, Milos Degenek flirted with personal jeopardy when impeding the speedy Christian Bassogog, but only conceded a corner despite preventing what looked like becoming a goalscoring chance in the making illegally.
Australia's luck, however, could not continue. A simple ball over the top saw Anguissa beat Degenek to the ball and flick a delicate shot up and over Ryan. It had been coming.
Before the game Cameroon manager Hugo Broos had derided Australia as a long ball team. The irony was that, at the break, Australia had been playing all the possession football, but Cameroon led thanks to a strike converted off a long ball of their own.
Almost immediately after the break, Juric had a chance to level, following good work from Kruse down the right. The Socceroos striker had enough time and space in the box to do better than blaze and effort over the bar.
When Australia's equaliser came, it was shortly after they almost went two behind. A neat pass behind Bailey Wright saw Cameroon hit the byline, target man Vincent Aboubakar waiting for the cut back. It had echoes of Germany's opening goal three days ago, but Cameroon were not as clinical and the chance went begging.
Unflustered and sticking to their methods, Australia worked the ball back to the other end and Gersbach went down in the box under a sliding tackle to earn penalty. To a chorus of boos from a crowd, vocally on the side of Cameroon, Milligan made no mistake from 12 yards.
Australia had their confidence up after the equaliser and pushed on for more, with the result that the game became stretched and slightly frenetic in the last half-hour. Aboubakar wasted yet another clear chance when Cameroon broke down the right and it was put on a plate on the penalty spot.
Tomi Juric endured a tough night at the office, unable to hold the ball up well enough in the first period. Toward the end of the game he was replaced by Tim Cahill coming on for his 99th cap and looking to find the spark that was missing from the Socceroos' play, for all their command of the ball at times.
But even Cahill's presence couldn't change Australia's fortunes. With an early exit for the tournament now all but certain.