ONLY three players have scored at four FIFA World Cup finals: Pele, Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose.
Wednesday’s bombshell announcement that Socceroos icon Tim Cahill is leaving A-League club Melbourne City is the biggest indication of his determination to join that exclusive club.
The 38-year-old announced on his birthday that he was parting ways with City after 28 league appearances, and FFA Cup silverware, but the more telling stat is that this term, he has started just once across the opening nine rounds, for a total of 94 minutes.
Despite that lack of game time, and the timing of the A-League season kick-off, he was able to rouse himself for a match winning performance for the Socceroos in the second leg against Syria, in which he played 120 minutes and scored twice, and then raced the injury clock to start in Sydney against Honduras, after picking up an ankle injury in that lone start for Warren Joyce’s side.
But the crux of his concern has been a lack of minutes at club level, given that in his twilight years, he wants to be playing regularly and at peak match fitness to contribute to the Socceroos in Russia 2018.
He flagged that concern immediately after the success against Honduras, telling Fox Sports pitchside at ANZ Stadium that he would need to assess his club future on the final Road to Russia. Since that tie, Ross McCormack and Marcin Budziński have been deployed up top, while Bruno Fornaroli will return this term too.
Now, the Socceroos are without a coach, and the side’s talisman, is without a club, but Cahill will find for a new home that will provide him with that momentum and continuity he needs to fire for his national team again, having scored against Japan in 2006, Serbia in 2010 and Chile and Netherlands in 2014 on the biggest stages of all.
His Melbourne Derby, FFA Cup final and Socceroos World Cup qualifying goals show the country’s greatest goal scorer still has a great appetite for goals on the biggest stage; now he will set the stage to have the runs under his belt leading into the games against France, Peru and Denmark next year.
WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR THE A-LEAGUE?
Cahill returned home with much fanfare for his first senior professional club deal in Australia last season, and from the moment he sweetly struck that iconic volley from 35 metres against Melbourne Victory, he brought that box office hype back to the competition as the last returning member of the fabled Golden Generation.
That goal was the most sparkling headline, but he has remained a vocal ambassador for the competition.
Ultimately, the A-League’s loss is the Socceroos’ gain, and the competition will now need to rely on other stars like imports Milos Ninkovic and Besart Berisha, and local talents like Daniel De Silva and James Troisi, to take up the mantle with sparkling performances on the park.
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE MELBOURNE CITY?
Melbourne City were knocked out of the FFA Cup in meek circumstances to Sydney FC. It raised a host of early red flags as Stefan Mauk questioned the team’s tactics on Fox Sports.
Then, once the season kicked off, City flew out of the blocks.
No one expected them to pick up four wins in four games, the kind of form that only champions have produced in the past. Then came another meeting with Sydney FC, the game Cahill’s injury occurred and the only game the record Socceroos scorer started this season.
The 1-0 loss began a run of four winless games as City slid well below the pace setters. Until a 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets on Saturday night, where City were saved eight times by goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis, Joyce’s side were in free fall.
While Cahill came off the bench in that match as they closed out the win, there have been some bold selection decisions from Joyce so far this season.
Current first choice striker Ross McCormack, who kept Cahill out of the side, is yet to score from open play, scoring six from direct free kicks or penalties in eight games. There is also a growing list of injuries to key attackers, with Fernando Brandan, Marcelo Carrusca and Fornaroli all out of action.
In midfield, which was another option for Cahill to play, new marquee signing Budzinski has started just three games, while Luke Brattan has been played out of position in a wide right role, and on the weekend, was heard to bite back at criticism from Joyce for a tackle during the game.
Also of note, last season’s player of the year Neil Kilkenny has gone unsighted for much of the season, as Joyce has preferred a midfield of Mauk, Osama Malik and Michael Jakobsen.
Cahill’s departure frees Joyce of a selection conundrum of where to best fit Cahill into his preferred and best formation and XI, with the club now set to rely on McCormack and their glut of attacking midfielder to take on the goal scoring burden in Fornaroli’s continued absence. The recent visit of Brian Marwood from City Football Group has seen Joyce backed, particularly with a backroom overhaul that has included the departure of assistant Michael Valkanis, as he brings in a steel, resolve and resilience to Melbourne City that they have lacked since their inception. .
WHAT IS CAHILL’S A-LEAGUE LEGACY?
It was cut short, but while it lasted, Cahill was a huge boost for the A-League after signing for Melbourne City to huge fan fare.
Immediately, he proved a hit – raising crowd wherever he travelled and starting his A-League career with a bang with that long range goal in the Melbourne Derby.
Cahill’s early domestic form was impressive, grabbing five goals in his first 11 appearances, plus grabbing the winning goal in the 2016 FFA Cup final to hand City their first piece of silverware.
A combination of injuries and Socceroos clashes meant Cahill lacked game time to start the 2017-18 season, with his Round 5 ankle injury sending shockwaves across the country ahead of the crucial double header against Honduras.
THE WORLD CUP RECORDS
Two Socceroos’ record fourth World Cup
Tim Cahill can join the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona, Roberto Baggio, Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, and Bobby Charlton by playing in his fourth World Cup.
Mark Milligan will attend his fourth World Cup, but he only took the field in 2014 in Brazil.
Only three players have played at five World Cups: Gianluigi Buffon, Antonio Carbajal and Lothar Matthaeus.
Buffon could’ve become the outright leader with a sixth appearance, but Italy surprisingly failed to qualify for Russia.
Players to have scored in four straight World Cups
If Cahill scores in Russia, he will join Brazil’s Pele, West Germany’s Uwe Seeler (both 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970), and Germany’s Miroslav Klose (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014) in scoring at four straight World Cups.
How Cahill’s five goals record stacks up
Cahill is equal 59th for goals scored at World Cups; level with Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi.
Klose has the most goals in World Cup history (16), and is closely followed up Ronaldo with 15. Gerd Muller (West Germany) is third with 14, Just Fontaine (France) is fourth with 13, and Pele is fifth with 12.
Cahill surprising fourth-most cards
Cahill is equal fourth for the most cards in World Cup history. The Socceroo’s five cards (four yellow and one red) is on par with Diego Maradona, Javier Mascherano, Lothar Matthaeus, Sulley Muntari, and Rigobert Song.
Only Zinedine Zidane, Rafael Marquez and Cafu have more cards (six).
Cahill to become World Cup’s 15th oldest player
Cahill would become the 15th oldest player to play at a World Cup if he takes the field in Russia. The Socceroo will be 38 years, six months and nine days old when the competition begins, which puts him just behind Portugal’s Damas (38 years, eight months and three days).
The oldest player to play in a World Cup is Colombia’s Faryd Mondragon (43 years, three days), and the oldest scorer was Cameroon’s Roger Milla at 42 years and 39 days old.
Pele was the youngest player to score at a World Cup in 1958 when he was 17 years and 239 days old.