Why Tim Cahill Will Be Australia's Major Weapon at the World Cup

Dan ColasimoneContributor IMay 9, 2014

Australia's Tim Cahill, left, and Japan's Daiki Iwamasa in action during the AFC Asian Cup final soccer match in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

He's arguably Australia's favourite footballer, the face of the national team for many and the embodiment of the Socceroos' fighting spirit, and Tim Cahill will once again be the side's most dangerous player at the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

A veteran of two previous World Cup campaigns, the 34-year-old has not just survived the gradual disintegration of his country's "Golden Generation," he remains the focal point of Australia's attack.

Cahill, of Irish and Samoan descent, is nothing if not a battler, and he had to battle long and hard even top earn a Socceroos cap.

It was not his ability that was in question but rather his eligibility. As a 14-year-old, the Sydney-born Cahill accepted an invitation from the Samoan Soccer Federation to represent Western Samoa at the 1994 OFC U-20 Championship after receiving assurances that it would not affect his chances of representing Australia in the future.

The teenager participated in only two games as a substitute in the tournament, but that would later prove a major obstacle to his eligibility to play for the Socceroos.

FIFA intervened when Australia tried to select Cahill for their 2000 Olympics squad, sparking a four-year scrap for the player which was only resolved when the rules were changed to allow those capped at junior levels to switch allegiances. 

The then-Millwall man was a star on the rise when he first turned out for the Socceroos on March 30, 2004. At the World Cup two years later, he established himself as a national team idol by scoring Australia's first two goals (the first two ever scored by Australia in the tournament) in their dramatic 3-1 comeback win over Japan in the group stage.

Cahill had by then proven himself as an influential player at Premier League level, performing superbly for Everton as an energetic box-to-box midfielder capable of providing link-up play, defensive graft and goals.

Though capable of scoring some scintillating goals with his feet, it is the 1.78m (5'10") dynamo's aerial prowess and uncanny ability to pop up in the right place at the right time that make him a truly dangerous proposition. 

Whether ghosting late into the box to finish off an attack or escaping his marker at a set piece, Cahill's superb movement is given a lethal cutting edge by an astounding vertical leap, which he uses to out-jump defenders who, in theory, should tower above him in such situations. 

It is that "X factor" that makes Cahill such a popular and valuable member of the Australian side, star of Weet-Bix commercials and a favourite of successive managers.

He does't just score plenty of goals; he scores crucial goals at big moments.

Japanese football fans must tremble at the sight of him as he has a habit of finding the net against Australia's modern-day arch-rivals.

A double against the Blue Samurai in the final round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup ensured Australia topped their group, and the New York Red Bulls man showed he can still lead his country out of strife by rescuing the side on several occasions in the latest qualifying campaign.

Cahill, who generally now plays as a forward on international duty, is now the Socceroos' all-time top scorer, with 31 strikes in 67 appearances. He is also the highest-scoring Australian at the World Cup finals, after adding a third goal to his tally in 2010. 

With injury ruling out Australia's most talented emerging forward, Robbie Kruse, and the young playmaker Tom Rogic coming off a poor season, it will be up to Australia's veteran go-to man once again to produce the goods.

The Socceroos face the daunting task of playing Spain, the Netherlands and Chile in Group B.

Tara Todras-Whitehill/Associated Press

Bookmakers and many pundits have already written off their chances of making it through to the next round, but as a proud sporting nation, they will desperately want at to least show their competitiveness and fight.

What better man to lead them into battle, then, than a veteran Samoan-Irish warrior with a history of heroics?