Nuremberg 20:45 Saturday 18th June 2005
A hat-trick from Villareal's Luciano Figueroa killed off the Australian challenge in Nuremberg tonight as Argentina won 4-2 with Figueroa's three and a Riquelme penalty beating a brace from John Aloisi. The South American champions are now through to the semi-finals with Germany, who lead them on goal difference whilst Australia rue elimination despite having scored five goals in two games.
Figueroa remains behind Hernan Crespo and Javier Saviola in the pecking order for the Argentina striker positions but tonight's hat-trick will force Jose Pekerman to give him more chances in the run-up to Germany 2006. Argentina lead the ten-nation South American qualifying group and it will be interesting if they draw Brazil in this tournament.
Argentina never looked like losing this contest but like Germany succumbed more than once to the underrated Australian attack. Having raced into a 3-0 lead by the fifty-third minute after two opportunist strikes from Figueroa and a Riquelme penalty, Argentina were hit teice in reply.
Aloisi, who plays his football for Osasuna in Spain, reduced arrears with a penalty kick just after the hour mark and then pulled the Socceroos to within one goal of Argentina with a poacher's goal in the seventieth minute. Gabriel Heinze was the villain this time around, chesting a Josip Skoku cross back to German Lux only for Aloisi to nip in and finish gleefully.
In the last minute however, Argentina killed the game as Riquelme curled a free-kick from the edge of the box over the scrum of bodies and Figueroa ghosted in at the far post to score.
Australia conclude their Confederations Cup campaign against Tunisia in Leipzig on Tuesday whilst Argentina tussle for first spot in the group with Germany in Nuremberg the same night.
Player comments to follow.
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