It seems unfair, that the greatest soccer player in Australia’s World Cup history, has his career come to an end in the 69th minute on the 7th day of the World Cup. But thanks to a second yellow card and the fact that Australia has already been eliminated from the World Cup, that’s the case for Tim Cahill. It wasn’t fair. But it’s okay. Because it has never been about fairness for Cahill. An indefatigable force of a player, he made both his career trajectory and Australia’s fortunes on the world stage not about the hand dealt but what was done with it.
And despite the circumstances, his likely last World Cup game in a Socceroos jersey was vintage Tim Cahill.
Hang with the Netherlands? A team that has just dismantled Spain with a 5-1 massacre? No problem. Score the best goal of the tournament thus far? You got it. Do it all with unceasing positivity and unapologetic pride? Absolutely.
The Socceroos’ impressive performance against the Dutch was chalked up to a sense belief held by each of the players, an attitude that can be traced back to Cahill. That idea alone, that one player can be the driving motivational force for such a massive collective effort is enough to cement one’s legacy, no questions asked. But the superlatives describing Cahill’s intangibles were spilling over long before yesterday. He has long been lauded as not just a leader, but an example for the next generation. The kind of guy you want representing your team and your country.
Those descriptions are well-deserved and accurate. But, the heaps of praise of Cahill’s intangibles almost overshadow his on-field accomplishments and ability. Make no mistake. Cahill still has oodles of talent. Yesterday’s wonder goal, (and what a goal it was! One-timed, perfectly-placed, searing through the Porto Alegre heat past a leaping goalkeeper, and pinging off the crossbar into the net) was just the latest in Cahill’s long resume of fantastic goals. He put a brilliantly timed header past Chile last week. He scored the fastest goal in Major League Soccer history last season. He has been involved in 54% of Australia’s World Cup goals. Ever. Whether its for the New York Red Bulls or the Australian national team, the game changes for the better when Cahill steps onto the field.
Now, due to a foul on Bruno Martins Indi, Cahill will miss Australia’s final group game against Spain, robbing him of another chance to build on his legacy. But, his 9 other World Cup games and 5 goals have left the people of Australia plenty of moments to savor, and a legacy to carry them into the future. Tim Cahill more than just represents Australia. He is Australia.
You can follow Maura on Twitter at @mgladys