A refreshed Tim Cahill is ready to lead the line for the Socceroos in their World Cup qualifier against Tajikstan and more than happy to share the goalscoring load with in-form teammates.
Having played only half an hour off the bench in Australia’s rout of Bangladesh last week, Cahill is a confirmed starter for Tuesday’s (2300AEST) clash in Dushanbe and will wear the captain’s armband.
Coach Ange Postecoglou will hope the 35-year-old can replicate his wonderful Chinese club form even if there is no longer such reliance on his happy knack of popping up with crucial goals.
While Cahill remains a central figure, having the likes of Mathew Leckie, Nathan Burns and Tom Rogic starting to find their feet – and the back of the net – lifts a burden from his shoulders.
“I think the main thing is we’ve always believed in the group of players,” Cahill said.
“We know exactly what they can do.
“Naturally over time, they’ll get their goals. They’ll get their game time and obviously get to show the world what they’re made of.”
Cahill’s recall to the starting side means Leckie will be shunted back to his usual role on the right wing.
Postecoglou has flagged a couple of other changes to his side, mindful of the effects of the weekend’s draining 24-hour transit from Perth to Dushanbe and the likely after-effects of playing on the synthetic turf at the Republican Central Stadium.
Cahill admitted he wasn’t a fan of synthetic surfaces.
“Do I like it? I don’t like it, but you play on it because you’re a professional footballer and that’s what gets thrown at you,” he said.
“I think we’ll be fine.”
Defender Matthew Spiranovic (illness) remains in doubt but completed Australia’s final pre-match training session on Monday, having been restricted to walking laps the day before.
Postecoglou must now decide whether to risk the China-based stopper or bring in Alex Wilkinson to partner Bailey Wright.
The Socceroos are almost unbackable favourites to account for Tajikistan and effectively end the Central Asian nation’s hopes of qualifying for a maiden Asian Cup or World Cup.
Locals are not holding out much hope, with the consensus seemingly that Tajikistan will do extremely well to concede less than three goals against the Asian champions.