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Australia-Japan: Cahill Brace Sinks Blue Samurai

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IJune 17, 2009

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 17:  Tim Cahill of the Socceroos celebrates his first goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifying match between the Australian Socceroos and Japan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 17, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Rewind to 2006, when Simon Hill did the play-by-play on Australia's match against Japan at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Kaiserslautern.

"Cahill...Tim Cahill's done it again!"

Cahill's two goals near the end of the match helped the Socceroos defeat the Blue Samurai 3-1.

Now fast-forward to Wednesday, in front of 69,238 fans at a chilly Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the final match day of FIFA World Cup 2010 Qualification against Japan. 

It's the fourth round of qualifying in the Asian Football Confederation. Both teams have qualified for South Africa, and new manager Takeshi Okada has sworn that his team will prevail.

Unfortunately for Okada, he'll have to eat humble pie made with ground crow and feathers because Cahill did it yet again.

His second-half brace helped Australia rally from a 1-0 halftime deficit to win Group A 2-1.

In what was a glorified friendly, Socceroos manager Pim Verbeek put on his lab coat, testing with a different back line that featured Lucas Neill and Jade North on the flanks. Among those in the back four, Rhys Williams earned his debut.

The patchwork defense was a boon for Marcus Tulio Tanaka. He became the first player to score against Australia in this round, scoring on a 40th minute header off a corner to stain Mark Schwarzer's clean sheet.

Fortunately, that would be the last time. Tulio's goal was a signal for Cahill to right the ship. 

In the 59th minute, his header off a Vince Grella set piece sent the crowd into raptures. Eighteen minutes later, the delivery off a corner by Nicky Carle found the Everton striker again.

As Verbeek acknowledged that the Socceroos were going to be on their way, he subbed in Dario Vidosic for Cahill, as he received a standing ovation from the thousands donning the green and gold.

Okada admitted that his humble pie was waiting for him on the next flight back to Tokyo. “Of course they must be disappointed and at the same time they want us to be stronger,” he said.

“I'm very proud of the players,'' Verbeek said following the match. “At the end of a very long and tough season they still had the power and the courage to fight back from 1-0 down in the first half.

“Great goals of course from Timmy. I think the players did very well until the last second."

The Socceroos will now focus on qualifying for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and warming up for next year's showcase event in South Africa. Their next match is scheduled for August 12, 2009 against the Republic of Ireland in Limerick. 

Currently, Ireland sit one point behind Italy in UEFA Group Eight of 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualification.

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