The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ has already seen several dramatic entrances, with a clutch of substitutes coming on to find the back of the net, the latest of them Memphis Depay, who struck from distance to seal the Netherlands’ 3-2 defeat of Australia.
One man who has made a goalscoring exit from the scene, however, is Tim Cahill, the veteran Socceroo, who did so in some style. Now 34, the Aussie midfielder arrived in Brazil knowing that his third consecutive World Cup would also be his last. And when his side’s Group B match against the Netherlands kicked off on Wednesday, he knew that the end of his World Cup career could not be far away.
As it turned out, it came a little sooner than expected because of a second yellow card that will keep him out of Australia’s final match, against deposed world champions Spain.
The caution was issued in the 43rd minute of Wednesday’s match in Porto Alegre, when Cahill caught Bruno Martins Indi, who was stretchered off as a result. Though the incident was not a major event in itself, it turned out to have a significant impact on proceedings, with the stricken Martins Indi being replaced at half-time by Depay, the man who would go on to win the game for the Dutch.
t’s a new era for Australian football, and thanks to today’s match, we’ve earned the respect of the whole world.
Speaking to FIFA.com following the untimely end of his World Cup career, Cahill shared his thoughts on how it came about: “I played with my heart and my guts, just like I’ve always done, without thinking about the cards I’d already got or the ones I might get.
“I’ve always gone in for every ball. That’s the way I’ve always played and it’s the risk I take. I’ve picked up two cards but I always play in the moment, without thinking about the future. And today I’ve enjoyed one of the most beautiful moments of my life.”
Cahill was referring first and foremost to the brave fight that the Socceroos put up against one of the tournament favourites, and which could easily have earned them three points, but also to the goal he scored, a majestic first-time volley that thumped in off the underside of the crossbar to bring the scores level at 1-1.
“It was a fantastic goal and without doubt the best of my career. I’ll never forget it,” said the New York Red Bulls star. “It’s a moment of great pride for me and my country. I know that it’s all over for me now, but I’m leaving without any regrets. As well as scoring that goal, we gave as good as we got against one of the best teams in the world and their star players like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie."
Respect around the world
A member of the side that ended Australia’s 32-year absence from the world finals at Germany 2006, Cahill was entitled to feel proud. “Taking part in this competition is something I used to dream about when I was a boy, a time when you didn’t often see Australia at the World Cup,” said the former Everton player, who with his Porto Alegre piledriver has now scored five goals in three editions of the competition.
“I feel tremendously proud of the fact that I’ve played a regular part in the World Cup. We’re still a young team in the football world. It’s a new era for Australian football, and thanks to today’s match, we’ve earned the respect of the whole world.”
Nor has it gone unnoticed that a player regarded as one of the finest headers of the ball can also double up as a useful striker who is every bit as dangerous on the ground.
“It’s a huge compliment to me to be given the task of going out and getting the goals,” added Cahill, who has been leading the Aussie attack since national team coach Ange Postecoglou arrived in the job, and doing so with relish. “It motivates me to know that the team and the whole country have been banking on me in that position. I’ve done my best and I hope I haven’t let anyone down.”
Though that is indeed the case, the whole of Australia and football lovers in general are all disappointed about one thing – that they will never see Cahill grace the big stage again.