Classic Tim Cahill goal against Chile
Watch again the Aussie striker's headed goal that put the Socceroos on the board in their World Cup match against Chile... classic Cahill.PT0M39S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3a3rp 620 349 June 14, 2014
Great: notable; remarkable; exceptionally outstanding.
Tim Cahill has become the greatest ever Socceroo. The coronation came against Chile; confirmation is poised to come against the Netherlands and Spain. Thriving in his third World Cup, Cahill stands alone.
It's not official, of course. It never is. It's subjective. But on every level that matters, Cahill deserves to be regarded as the greatest player Australia has produced. Maybe not the best, in terms of pure ability, but there are other measures which supersede raw talent. And in Brazil, at the pinnacle of the world game, Cahill has underlined what he brings to his team, and his country. It's written on his face.
Socceroos Matt McKay, Tim Cahill, Mile Jedinak and James Troisi jog during training in Vitoria. Photo: AFP
If he sticks around for the Asian Cup, which he should, you can only imagine him putting an exclamation mark on his remarkable story. Ange Postecoglou isn't stupid. While he has shown no emotion in getting rid of many of Cahill's peers, he was never inclined to get rid of Cahill himself. Here is one star who, despite being in the twilight of his career, continues to glitter in the green and gold.
Put your money on Cahill illuminating the remaining games in Porto Alegre and Curitiba. The greatest players are defined by World Cups. In Germany, in South Africa, and now in Brazil, he has risen to the occasion. Only three players have been involved in three World Cups for Australia. No disrespect to Mark Milligan and Mark Bresciano, but they're not on the same level. Cahill has scored in each tournament, and contributed much more than his goals – which is the real gauge of his greatness.
It's amazing, in so many ways, that Cahill's career – and not just at international level – owes so much to one thing: his strength in the air. A vertical jump of extraordinary power, exquisite timing, strong neck muscles, and an uncanny ability to steer the ball exactly where it needs to go. If he is not the best offensive header of the ball in the world, he's mighty close.
Is heading a skill? Absolutely. It makes Cahill an extremely skilful player. Not in the conventional sense, like Harry Kewell or Mark Viduka or Paul Okon or Ned Zelic. But being world class at one skill as opposed to international-class at many different ones, evens things out. Don't diminish what makes Cahill brilliant because it may not conform to stereotypes.
It's not just the goals – he is Australia's all-time leading scorer at full international level (although John Kosmina has scored more overall). Or the longevity – Cahill will earn his 70th cap against the Dutch, and you'd back him to eventually end up in the all-time top five.
What makes Cahill extra special is the passion, the drive and the commitment he displays every time he pulls on the shirt. He says he treats every game as if it's his last, and he means it.
We should never forget, of course, how desperate he was to play for Australia in the first place. After playing for Samoa, the country of his mother's birth, at youth level, he needed a rule change by FIFA to open the door. Cahill made his debut for the Socceroos at the age of 24, and has been making up for lost time ever since. You can see it in every performance.
There are other greats of the Australian game. Reg Date, Johnny Watkiss, Joe Marston, Ray Baartz, Kosmina, Kewell, Viduka, Okon, Zelic, Mark Schwarzer and Lucas Neill are some of them. They will all have their advocates, and they all have legitimate claims.
But Cahill has moved beyond them to become the all-time greatest. The Chile performance showed it. The games against the Netherlands and Spain should prove it beyond doubt. A great player, and a great patriot. An irresistible combination.