Ex-players, journalists and fans. An entire nation demanded the inclusion of Tim Cahill and Daniel Arzani.
Even former Australia boss Guus Hiddink – the man who set the platform for Cahill to announce himself on the international stage on that famous night in Kaiserslautern 12 years ago when he scored his nation’s first World Cup goal – joined the growing calls ahead of the must-win Group C clash against Peru in Sochi and amid the Socceroos’ toothless displays.
“He’s so eager,” Hiddink told the Herald Sun. “He can make an impact with his own performance. But also the impact on the other guys when he comes on will raise their performance.
“I’m a fan of his and Tim will join a special group [if he scores], I think he can. I desperately hope he will start or come on. [At least] for the last [30 minutes] to make these beautiful headers and make the difference.
“As you remember he made the difference when I didn’t have him in the starting line-up against Japan. He decided that game with a few minutes.
“My big problem was that I had a quality team, who do I put in the first 11. I had quality on the bench.”
Those calls fell on deaf ears on Tuesday, however, the stubborn and nonchalant Bert van Marwijk ignoring the chorus of demands from home and afar.
— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) June 26, 2018
The pair finally made it on to the pitch in the second half, but the damage was done – Peru leading 2-0 at Fisht Stadium. Cahill’s impact was immediate albeit brief as Australia’s hopes faded by the minute.
There were questions raised over Cahill’s inclusion in the World Cup squad. The 38-year-old had only played 63 minutes of football during his second stint with Millwall.
But Cahill is a big-game player. A man for the big occasion. More importantly, no player has scored more goals for Australia.
Mathew Leckie and Tom Rogic wasted opportunities in a first half controlled by Australia, who were sucker-punched in a stunning moment of brilliance from Andre Carrillo.
By the time Cahill was summoned from the bench to a standing ovation from Aussie fans, Peru had just added their second through all-time leading scorer and captain Paolo Guerrero. There was a glimmer of hope, though. Belief inspired by Cahill’s heroics in Germany, South Africa and Brazil.
It proved to be too little, too late, ultimately.
Australia’s defensive frailties were highlighted against Peru, but whether ignorant or silly, it’s hard not to think whether the result may have been different with Cahill in the starting XI.
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