Aussie Tim Cahill not guaranteed of fourth World Cup
AFTER Australia’s in-form striker was left out of their Russia 2018 squad, veteran Tim Cahill would also have no guarantees of making the final cut for his fourth consecutive World Cup.
Despite scoring a hat trick against Rangers on Sunday and eight goals in his last 13 matches, Hibernian’s Jamie Maclaren wasn’t selected to join Cahill and co.
in a 26-man training camp in Turkey, beginning this week.
The squad will be reduced to 23 ahead of the opening match against France in Kazan on June 16.
That means three more players will be trimmed by Dutch head coach Bert van Marwijk, with Cahill vulnerable after playing just 62 minutes since joining English second-tier side Millwall in January.
It didn’t help that he missed the club’s final two matches of the season after a retrospective ban for violent conduct against Fulham on April 20th.
Cahill turns 39 in December and has failed to score a goal in 17 appearances for Millwall and his former A- League side, Melbourne City, since the beginning of this season.
His critics claim that he has been selected for the Socceroos for commercial reasons, with their main sponsor Caltex having made Cahill the face of their World Cup campaign before the announcement of the squad.
The petrol station chain has been re-named “Cahilltex”, with the image of the former Everton attacker plastered over billboards.
With the likes of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka having long retired, Cahill remains the most recognisable face of a squad lacking in star- quality.
Aaron Mooy ( Huddersfield) and Tom Rogic ( Celtic) may be making more an impact on the field in Britain’s top leagues, but these 20-somethings simply don’t have the brand value of the old warrior who has scored 50 international goals.
“Absolutely not,” was the stern response of Football Federation Australia ( FFA) boss David Gallop when asked if commercial reasons forced Van Marwijk’s hand with his selection.
“Have a look at Tim Cahill’s track record,” Gallop said.
“He’s a guy who has produced for the Socceroos and Australia so many times. He’s going to Turkey. He’s got a few weeks of intense training and he’ll be right up there [ for final selection].” Cahill was Australia’s hero when they prevailed over a stubborn Syria in an AFC World Cup playoff last October.
His two goals, including the second in extra time in Sydney, ensured a 3-2 aggregate victory over a West Asian side who were unlucky not to cause a major upset.
But in the subsequent A-League season, Cahill didn’t pose his usual threat.
With his playing opportunities limited, he fell out with Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce before leaving the club by mutual consent last December.
One of eight forwards at the pre-World Cup training camp, Cahill could be vying with Nikita Rukavytsya, Dimi Petratos, Andrew Nabbout and the uncapped Daniel Arzani to avoid the cruelest cut.
One attacker is likely to miss out of the final 23, with Europebased Mat Leckie, Robbie Kruse and Tom Juric considered certainties to be selected, barring injury.
But should Cahill prove his fitness in Turkey, he is worth a place in a squad short of world- class quality.
While his reduced physical attributes mean that he isn’t the same player who scored in three previous World Cup tournaments, his enthusiasm is infectious.
Simply having Cahill in the dressing room and seeing him come off the bench in Russia will bring out the best in his teammates.
Along with captain Mile Jedinak whose man- of-thematch performance against Middlesbrough helped Aston Villa earn a place in the Championship playoff final at Wembley – a doorway into the Premier League – Cahill is a proven winner.
He’s never let the Socceroos down before.
But do spare a thought for the unlucky Maclaren who has struggled for opportunities under both Van Marwijk and previous boss Ange Postecoglou.
How he failed to get the nod in the 26-man squad ahead of Rukavytsya or Petratos is puzzling.
While the Scottish Premiership may pale in comparison to La Liga, the Bundesliga or the Premier League, it is strong enough to suggest that Maclaren would have been a threat in Russia for the goal-shy Socceroos, who are still turning towards ‘ Úncle Timmy Cahilltex’ for inspiration.
* Jason Dasey is Singaporebased TV broadcaster and event emcee.
Twitter: @ JasonDasey “Whatever the case, I’m aiming to ensure the whole team has a positive mental attitude towards achieving its goals.
“Rather than a player saying ‘ I’ve taken seven or eight penalties and keep missing them’, we try to break that nexus and find positive moments.
Let’s make it about how you’d like the next penalty to be.” If Sydney FC beat Shanghai Shenhua at Allianz Stadium next Tuesday and Suwon fail to win in Japan against the already- qualified Kashima, the Aussies can book their place in the ACL Round of 16 next month.
And then their emotional intelligence will need to lift to a whole, new level.
* Former Astro host Jason Dasey is Singapore-based TV broadcaster and event emcee.
Twitter: @ JasonDasey