(Reuters) - Australian media lamented the absence of a top-level marksman as the Socceroos bowed out of the World Cup with a 2-0 defeat to Peru in Sochi on Tuesday, finishing bottom of a pool in which they competed in all three matches but never led.
The Peru defeat came after a 2-1 loss to France and a creditable 1-1 draw against Denmark as Australia were left to rue the fact that they only managed to score from two penalties in a tight Group C campaign that exposed their toothless attack.
“It’s an age old axiom in football that defences win championships, but forwards win matches,” Michael Lynch wrote in The Age newspaper.
“But to get into a position to win a championship and give your defence something to protect, you first have to get on the scoresheet. And for so long — and not just in this tournament — that has been Australia’s Achilles heel.”
With Australia’s 38-year-old all-time top scorer Tim Cahill limited to just a 30-minute cameo against Peru after Tomi Juric and Andrew Nabbout offered little up front, the side were never able to put sustained pressure on their opponents in Russia.
Cahill struggled for playing time at Millwall in the lead-up to the tournament and any hope he had of ending his career with a goal at a fourth consecutive World Cup failed to materialise as Australia chased the game in Sochi.
“It’s a sad ending for the Socceroos and especially for the legend Tim Cahill, who caused some problems for Peru in a typically wholehearted performance,” Ray Gatt wrote in The Australian of the 50 international goals striker.
“Cahill has played his last game for Australia after a stellar career. Australia salutes you. For the rest, there are valuable lessons to be learned.
“At this level, you need a quality number nine, someone who can take their chances. If you don’t you will get punished. To go through the tournament without scoring a goal in open play pretty well sums it up.”
Dominic Bossi of the Sydney Morning Herald felt the team benefited from playing under temporary coach Bert van Marwick and can carry that belief forward to future tournaments.
“The legacy of Bert van Marwijk does not include getting Australia out of the group but in the wake of his departure, the Dutchman has left something lasting among the Socceroos — the knowledge they can outplay the world’s best,” Bossi wrote.
“For many, he was the first national team coach that taught them how to express themselves on the football pitch rather than simply follow orders and in doing so, lead them to learning they’re competent challengers against the richest and most famous names in world football.”
Reporting by John O'Brien in Singapore; Editing by Peter Rutherford