- *Tim Cahill will reach 100 caps for Australia, if he plays against Chile *
- *He would be the first outfield Socceroo to do so *
- *Coach Ange Postecoglou said Cahill's reputation in Australia “transcends sport” *
*By Pete Smith with Australia *
Tim Cahill has chalked off countless milestones in his storied career. Perhaps most notably, he is Australia’s first-ever FIFA World Cup™ goalscorer and has totalled five goals across three campaigns. It is a feat some of football’s greatest ever names have not been able to better – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo among them.
Now Cahill is on the cusp of another groundbreaking landmark. Should he take the field on Sunday in the Socceroos’ make-or-break FIFA Confederations Cup match against Chile, he will become the first outfield player to represent Australia 100 times. Only goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, with 109 caps, has played more times.
It is a remarkable statistic on several levels. As recently as the 1990s, the national record stood at just 65. Cahill is also Australia’s record scorer by some margin - his 48 goals are 19 clear of his nearest rival - leaving him just two shy of another significant landmark.
“I won’t be emotional during the game, I think you get emotional after it,” Cahill said on the eve of the match in Moscow. “If anything, I want to put it in the back of my mind because the onus is on this game.”
Chile defeated Australia 3-1 at the 2014 World Cup and, almost inevitably, it was Cahill who rose to the big occasion to score his team’s goal.
Yet, it could all have been very different, with Cahill denied permission to play for Australia until the age of 24, following a brief appearance for Samoa as a 14-year-old.
“It is a long time ago back to Samoa and being released to play for Australia, but it has been an amazing journey,” Cahill said, adding that scoring Australia’s first-ever World Cup goal [in 2006] was his most memorable international match.
“It was a tearful moment [being cleared] because you do everything to be a professional footballer, and to be told you can’t play for your country ….it’s a big thing. My journey, which has been amazing, could have been very different.”
Now at the back end of his career, Cahill is without doubt Australia’s most famous footballer. Coach Ange Postecoglou drew just a hint of a tear from Cahill in the pre-match media conference, as he paid tribute to the Socceroo star.
“It is not just about football, he is a great Australian, who transcends sport,” said Postecoglou. “Hopefully, recognition is not just from the football community, but from the country as a whole. He scored at three World Cups, and if that is not world class, I don’t know what is.”
Though 37, Cahill seems to have barely aged a day. So will he be back in Russia in 12 months' time, should Australia earn World Cup qualification?
“I never take anything for granted,” he said. “I treat every camp like it is my last. It would be selfish to look towards another World Cup, and it would be selfish of any of the players, because the next game is all that matters for now.”