The headline said it all. “Australia Just Scored the Goal of the World Cup. Yes, Australia.”
Until a few hours ago, it was hard to imagine anyone beating Robin van Persie’s flying Dutchman effort for goal of the tournament. And then Tim Cahill did this.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. Just a minute earlier, Arjen Robben had drilled one in at the other end with an assassin’s trademark precision to give the Netherlands a 1-0 lead.
Whether inspired by Musical Youth’s Pass the Dutchie or his own sense of never say die, Tim immediately got us back on level pegging and punched up the corner flag for good measure. The goal was all the more remarkable because it didn’t involve his head, or even his favoured pin.
It also gave the Socceroos renewed purpose. Half an hour later, we got ourselves in front when Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak calmly slotted home a penalty like he was out for a Sunday stroll. Aussie Twitter feeds ticked over with incredulity and Craig Foster’s voice was drowned out in the mayhem.
For four glorious minutes, we had the Dutchies beaten. But they rallied, levelled and then found one more to come away with a 3-2 win.
So, here’s where you might want to bring out the tissues. Because with Chile beating Spain 2-0 and killing our remaining chance of progressing to the knockout stage, and with Tim yellow carded out of our final game, we have seen his last World Cup goal.
I know, it hurts. But, in the words of another cheesy song, he went and saved the best for last. And with five World Cup goals to his name, he’s racked up more than Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi combined, who’ve only mustered four between them.
We have one more game to play against tournament easybeats Spain and then we will exit the World Cup stage. But we have left a good and lasting impression. Unlike Spain, who’ve conceded seven goals and scored just one, to become the fourth reigning champions in World Cup history to exit at the group stage.
Eight years ago, I found myself sitting in the Qantas domestic departure lounge next to a bloke that looked at first glance like a skinny teenager waiting to grow into his body.
It was a few weeks after the 2006 World Cup that had propelled Tim Cahill, then aged 26, into the national spotlight. Yet there he was alone and unexpectedly diminutive.
“You guys were great in the World Cup,” I finally blurted. I didn’t catch his response, so I further blurted: “Huh?” and he gave me one of those tight smiles you reserve for strangers with questionable sanity.
“Thanks,” he said quietly. “I really appreciate it.”
No, Tim. Thank YOU, mate.