Agony! Socceroos knocked out of World Cup
IN the end the agony was written on their faces, as the Socceroos' World Cup dreams melted in the Sochi sun.
Dreaming of a win and a place in the last 16, Australia lost 2-0 to Peru even with a 37-minute cameo from Tim Cahill.
Goals in each half from Andre Carrillo and Paolo Guerrera gave Peru a consolation win, leaving Australia bottom of the group.
Even had they won their fate would have been sealed, with Denmark drawing against France to secure second place in the group.
But there was intense frustration that the performances against France and Denmark couldn't be completed with victory.
Australia knew they faced a delicate balancing act, of not leaving themselves open while pushing for the win they needed.
An early shot from Mile Jedinak was a statement of intent, that Australia would not be intimidated by either the occasion or the massed ranks of Peruvians.
But Jedinak's desire also got him into trouble, booked for a head-high tackle on Christian Cueva.
As if Lima's Estadio Nacional had been transplanted to the Russian coastline, the roar of support for their team was cacophonic - especially when their team took the lead.
In a match until then of shadowboxing, Peru suddenly found a perfect punch. A ball over the top of the Australian defence was gathered in the corner by captain Paolo Guerrero, who looked up and curled a deep cross towards Andre Carrillo.
Arriving unheralded at the far corner of the box, Carrillo struck a perfect volley back across Mat Ryan and into the bottom corner.
Desperately Australia tried to respond, but 24-carat chances went begging. Tom Rogic, playing like a man on a mission, ran at the Peruvians, beat four players but saw his shot beaten away by Pedro Gallese.
Then Rogic freed Robbie Kruse into the box for a cutback, but as the goal gaped for Mathew Leckie, Anderson Santamaria somehow scooped the ball away.
By halftime Australia had mustered six shots, but only one on target, a statistic that spoke volumes - especially when Peru showed them again the art of seizing the moment in the 50th minute.
Admittedly they had some luck in the process, though the move that opened up space for Cueva to charge down the left was elegant.
Cutting inside, Cuevo struck a cross that deflected off Jedinak into the path of Guerrero; the captain struck it goalwards and another slight deflection off Mark Milligan helped it past Mat Ryan.
Finally Bert van Marwijk produced his trump cards, sending on Cahill and Daniel Arzani. Immediately there was a flurry of chances, Aziz Behich's shot brushing the post on its way wide and Cahill's goalbound effort hitting his own man.
Arzani hit the top of the net with a daring volley from the edge of the box, then Behich sidefooted a low cross just a fraction beyond Cahill's run.
As the game, and the World Cup drifted away, the Australian fans were denied even the consolation of Cahill scoring at a fourth World Cup.
A day of such hope ended in bitter disappointment.