Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano are two of Australia’s most distinguished exports to European soccer and stalwarts of national team colours – but what do they have to show for it?
Timmy’s forehead has helped his countrymen avoid discomfort more times than a can of Aeroguard while Bresciano’s touch is softer than the sand on Cottosloe Beach, yet their senior trophy cabinets are largely bare.
Cahill is a club legend at Premier League outfit Everton while also a hero at passionately supported second-tier London outfit Millwall. His winning goal for Millwall in the FA Cup semi-final against Sunderland and their subsequent loss in the final and another FA Cup final defeat with Everton are as close as he’s come to any major silverware.
Bresciano’s nine year career in Italy’s Serie A for Parma, Palermo and Lazio never included a cup final appearance or a title challenge but still represents a supremely impressive body of work.
Their offerings for the Socceroos hardly need introduction with both scoring vital goals and playing superb roles for the green and gold for a number of years.
Cahill has scored at three consecutive World Cups while Bresciano got the goal that helped us to Germany 2006 in that famous game with Uruguay.
Of the period post-2005 when the A-League began and we made our first World Cup in 34 years they’ve arguably been the most influential national team players.
If the Socceroos were to triumph against South Korea in the Asian Cup final in Sydney on Saturday night it would be the most fitting reward for two of Australia’s 21st-century sporting icons.
While the struggle for Australian footballers to taste team success in Europe – or the Socceroos – is not an uncommon one, it is unusual that players who are as good as these have no trophies at all, particularly when you look at some of their younger squad-mates.
Tomi Juric and Matthew Spiranovic have both just won an Asian Champions League with Western Sydney Wanderers while Alex Wilkinson’s Jeonbuk Motors side took out the 2014 K-League title.
Mat Ryan’s deputy in goal, Mitch Langerak, is also number two at Borussia Dortmund but played in their German Cup victory, a cup winner’s cup triumph and spent most of the season on the bench for his two Bundesliga titles.
Cahill and Bresciano must wonder what they need to do when players in the infancy of their overseas careers can achieve such riches.
Luckily a tonic for such a problem isn’t out of reach and with an appropriate sense of theatre the elusive win could come to cap their long careers.
The 35-year-old Cahill and Bresciano, 34, will hopefully use the Asian Cup final as their Socceroo retirement games to allow the younger generation of players they’re keeping out of the 11, like Nathan Burns and Tommy Oar, to come through.
While they may play on at club level after the tournament the squad have shown that they now have enough depth to cover their veteran stars and be competitive without them.
With Cahill likely to join Bresciano by playing his club football in the Middle East’s rich leagues this will be their last chance to taste success that could match anything they might’ve won while in Europe.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou is someone who has a reputation for making tough decisions on player’s squad selection futures, so even if the two want to stay it wouldn’t be a surprise if he moved them on.
But standing in the way of a fairytale are a South Korean side who have mastered the art of defending in the 2015 Asian Cup by not conceding a goal.
Anyone who thinks that is no great feat against the opposition they have faced needs only need to look at their semi-final win with Iraq. For much of the second half they came under barrage from the 2007 Asian Cup winners but held them out with an astonishingly disciplined defensive clinic.
Their captain Ki Sung Yueng, who plays at Swansea City, has been an unstoppable force in the midfield controlling his team’s tempo.
Quelling his attacking initiative and defensive covering will go a long way to winning the match.
But if anyone is going to score against the miserly South Koreans it will be the Socceroos who unfathomably lost the teams’ last encounter in the group stages 1-0 after bombarding the visitors’ goal.
In that game Postecoglou’s men dominated possession and breached the Korean defence on many occasions but just couldn’t capitalise due to poor finishing.
With Cahill in his usually breathtaking form, Bresciano fresh after being used sparingly in this tournament and a host of younger firepower supporting them, the squad’s elder statesmen should win the medal and hold a trophy that the quality of their careers demands.