SYDNEY (Reuters) - Tim Cahill will be 38 by the time the 2018 World Cup finals come around but you would be hard pushed to find an Australian who does not want him on the plane to Russia should the Socceroos qualify.
That they are still in the hunt for a spot is down to the two goals, the 49th and 50th for his country, he conjured up with trademark headers in the 2-1 extra time victory over Syria on Tuesday.
Thirteen years after scoring his first goal for his country against Tahiti in Adelaide, Cahill once again proved that while he is on the park, Australia always have a chance.
Handed a rare start in his 103rd international, Cahill played the entire match and was waiting in the box in the 96th minute to head Robbie Kruse’s cross into the net and secure an inter-continental playoff against Honduras.
The winners of next month’s two-legged tie will advance to the finals.
“I said time and time again you write your own script. I knew I was going to score,” the 37-year-old said.
”It’s not something you’re over confident about but you put yourself in the right position, it’s like waiting for a bus
“I didn’t touch the ball much but I did my job, and in the end I delivered, that’s what I’ve done my whole life and I’ll continue to do it.”
Coach Ange Postecoglou, who on Wednesday passed up a chance to knock down reports that he would be stepping down from his post after the Honduras playoff, was effusive in his praise.
”Timmy was Timmy, that’s why he’s the greatest ever,“ he said. ”I said when he broke the hundred games he’s just a great Australian sportsman, beyond our sport.
“And he’s got an international record that will stack up against the best in the world. And he keeps doing it.”
Cahill has scored five of Australia’s 11 goals at the last three versions of the World Cup finals and he has little doubt that the Asian champions can make it four in a row next year.
“It’s great to get the result not only for the players but for the manager as well,” he said. “We’re doing it the hard way but its feeling pretty good at the moment.”
Should Australia qualify for Russia, they would have taken 22 games to get to the finals, dating back to their first match against Kyrgyzstan on June 16, 2015.
Editing by John O'Brien