Sport Football Incredible Cahill sends Socceroos into semis

Incredible Cahill sends Socceroos into semis

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With a simply stupendous scissor kick that defied the genetic make-up and physical capabilities of most mortal 35-year-olds, Tim Cahill blasted Australia into its second consecutive Asian Cup semi-final.

If Australians needed any reminding that Cahill is a special sportsman, he made sure we never forget on Thursday night with an utterly special goal.

He also showed an estimated 70 million Chinese TV viewers his freakish abilities, deft timing and appetite to make every contest his very own.

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Cahill monstered China captain Zheng Zhi in an aerial duel, forcing him to the ground and leaving the Socceroos star open to scissor the secondary cross home and Australia into the last four of the tournament.

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Even after an anonymous first 45 minutes, and suggestions we don’t need him anymore, the New York Red Bull jack-in-the-box made Australia fawn for him yet again with that opening goal in the most remarkable of circumstances.

And just in case, if anyone was left wondering about the striker’s superhuman qualities, he added to his 49th-minute goal 16 minutes later with a trademark header to make the score 2-0.

Cahill wheels away to celebrate his second strike as Brisbane's crowd goes crazy. Photo: Getty
Tim Cahill wheels away to celebrate his second strike as Brisbane’s crowd goes crazy. Photo: Getty

But the story of the night wasn’t all comfort, fluency and worship at the feat of demigod Cahill.

As the well-worn cliche of ‘cagey openings’ goes, the first half was edgy and nervous football in its purest form.

That was the case for the Socceroos anyway, when looking at how the national captain began on his return to the team from injury.

In Mile Jedinak Australia have a skipper who is among the most combative, powerful and disruptive midfielders in the world – without doubt his defensive statistics and ability are in the upper echelon.

This doesn’t always translate into fluency with the ball.

It was a disjointed start for Jedinak and his Socceroos and even though they dominated possession early, the midfield trio of Mark Bresciano, Massimo Luongo and Jedinak had not started a game together before.

The Socceroos shot themselves in the foot with their possession in the game’s infancy as Jedinak in particular turned the ball over continually. The Crystal Palace man didn’t help his cause with a cynical yellow card in the 20th minute.

Mile Jedinak battled for fluency in his return from injury. Photo: Getty
Mile Jedinak battled for fluency in his return from injury. Photo: Getty

In front of an expectant following watching back home, the Chinese side showed why their group stage form had been widely lauded as their counter-attacking potency became clear to a fumbling Australian midfield.

Their keeper Wang Dalei did just as well, saving as Australia came to life in the 29th minute through the appropriately electric Matthew Leckie, whose neat touch and quick turn on the edge of the box produced a sharp shot.

Cahill was uncharacteristically anonymous for the first 45 minutes, getting little service to aid his otherworldly ability to header a ball into the goals – clearly that situation developed.

Less anonymous in the first half was Trent Sainsbury who continues to impress in defence, however his header over the bar from a sumptuous Bresciano free kick in the 36th minute should have been scored.

His composure at the back settled the side when they were forced onto the back foot and when Matthew Spiranovic comes back from suspension the Socceroos have a defensive pairing for the future.

Along with Sainsbury’s poise and Luongo’s seemingly seasoned ability as an attacking midfielder, Cahill’s goal woke Australia from their mediocrity. It was deserved given how the side battled through a determined Chinese outfit early.

The starting XI’s other veteran was Bresciano, who beat Mark Milligan, Matt McKay, James Troisi and possibly Tommy Oar to a starting spot. He was unfortunately not as effective or eye-catching as Cahill.

While he does add experience and poise to the team there is a case to say the youth of Troisi or Oar should be utilised for the team’s future. However such is Bresciano’s stature that keeping him in the XI is equally as justifiable.

Ange Postecoglou’s team will play either Japan or the UAE in Newcastle on Tuesday. It would be outlandish to suggest Japan won’t be in our path to the final and given that is the case a better start to the game will be needed.

If we are anywhere near as sloppy or loose with possession in Tuesday’s first half, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Yasuhito Endo will most certainly make us pay.

Then again, Cahill scored two against the Japanese at the 2006 World Cup and another two in a World Cup qualifier at the MCG in 2008 – so we always have him to fall back on.

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