After Promising World Cup, Australia Now Must Move to Replace Tim Cahill

Dan ColasimoneContributor IJune 23, 2014

Australia's Tim Cahill celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the group B World Cup soccer match between Australia and the Netherlands at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

Australia have put in three admirable performances at Brazil 2014, despite not collecting a point, but their final match against Spain showed they must seek a worthy replacement for the legendary Tim Cahill.

The Socceroos were not expected to trouble Chile, Netherlands or Spain at this World Cup, but trouble them they did.

Against Chile, Australia went two goals down early but fought back with aplomb and nearly forced a draw. It took a late Chilean goal to secure a 3-1 win against the plucky underdogs.

Confronted with a Netherlands side fresh from a 5-1 demolition of world champions Spain, Australia refused to play the role of hapless victims, battling to a 2-1 lead in the second half before eventually succumbing 3-2.

With both sides eliminated, the Socceroos were less competitive in their 3-0 loss to Spain but nor did they look completely overawed.

Australia's least impressive showing of the tournament happened to be in the game which Cahill missed through suspension, further outlining the New York Red Bulls man's importance to the team.

Cahill had scored a trademark header against Chile to drag his side back into the contest and also smashed a stunning volley in the Netherlands game to add yet another goal to his highlights reel.

With five World Cup strikes over three tournaments, the idea that he is the greatest-ever Socceroo is gaining momentum.

Michael Cockerill, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, made the case for Cahill after his goal against Chile, before his wonder strike against the Dutch:

It's not official, of course. It never is. It's subjective.

But on every level that matters, Cahill deserves to be regarded as the greatest player Australia has produced. Maybe not the best, in terms of pure ability, but there are other measures which supersede raw talent.

And in Brazil, at the pinnacle of the world game, Cahill has underlined what he brings to his team, and his country. 

With their main man missing against Spain, Australia showed that they are yet to find a suitable replacement.

At the age of 34, the former Everton player may still feature at next year's Asian Cup, but it is unlikely he will still be around in 2018.

The Socceroos must find a consistent goalscorer to fill the void when Cahill takes his final bow.

The young strikers in the squad in Brazil have shown some potential, but they are yet to reach anything like the stature of Australia's all-time leading scorer.

Mathew Leckie had a superb tournament but needs to add sharp finishing to his repertoire before he can be considered a world-class forward.

Tommy Oar and Ben Halloran showed they can trouble defenders but also lacked the final product that Cahill is so famous for.

Adam Taggart was given his chance from the start against Spain yet was unable to make a mark on the game, while James Troisi, for all his quality on the ball, also lacked a killer punch.

One of these youthful strikers may yet develop into a reliable goalscorer at international level or someone else could emerge to fill that role.

Until then, Australia will remain a team with great potential but one overly dependent on an ageing star to give them real potency.