Playing at a fourth World Cup is the fire burning constantly in the back of Tim Cahill’s mind.
But the veteran striker knows if he’s to return to the world’s biggest stage as a 38-year-old, the focus must be the here and now.
Cahill is the great story of Australian football longevity, having made a huge impact at the Germany 2006, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 World Cups.
With five World Cup goals, the Socceroos’ all-time record scorer is already in elite company alongside Dutch stars Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, German great Miroslav Klose and American Clint Dempsey as the only players to score at all three instalments.
To represent the Socceroos at another in Russia next year would be a monumental achievement that would vault arguably Australia’s greatest player into a group of legends including Pele and Maradona to have featured at the global showpiece on four occasions.
Only German Lothar Matthaus and Mexican Antonio Carbajal have played at five World Cups.
As the last remaining member of the golden generation, Cahill is keenly aware his position cannot be taken for granted.
“My end goal is to get to Russia, but when 23 players are selected it starts from 20 to 60 players who have been a part of this long campaign for two-and-a-half years with the boss,” Cahill said.
“When we leave this camp we’re always knowing it could be your last ever camp, regardless of whether you’re 21 or 37 … it comes down to the football, that’s the main element we get judged by.
“It’s nice to be kept on your toes … it’s great to be here, but Russia 2018 is still too far ahead. The big game for me is [against Brazil] and then after that the Confederations Cup.”
At 37, the focus is fitness.
Cahill was used off the bench more often than not for Melbourne City last A-League season, a role he’s increasingly assumed for the national team under coach Ange Postecoglou.
Yet his aerial skills in the box are still up there with the world’s best and his freakish penchant to sniff out a wonder goal is a weapon Australia needs.
“You’ve got in the back of your mind the certain levels you need to be at professionally, and the best thing about coming into camp is being on level pegging with every single player, regardless of age,” Cahill said.
“The fitness has to be high, your data has to be good and everyone is in for a selection opportunity.”