Cahill finally plays for Australia as Socceroos sent home

Australia's Mark Milligan, left, and Australia's Tim Cahill, right, react after missing a chance to score during the group C match between Australia and Peru, at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

SOCHI, Russia (AP) Tim Cahill finally got onto the field in his fourth World Cup for Australia, asked to provide a spark with the Socceroos in desperate need of goals.

The goals didn’t follow and Cahill had no interest in talking about whether Australia’s 2-0 loss to Peru on Tuesday to close out the World Cup would be his final international appearance for his country.

Cahill made a swift exit following the loss, giving a few polite waves but otherwise opting not to talk about his limited contributions to Australia at the World Cup in Russia. According to teammates, Cahill made no indication about his future with the national team. At the end of the game, Cahill walked over and touched one of the goalposts before giving away his jersey to fans in the front row behind the Australia bench.

”I don’t know if it was the last time. Timmy never gives up,” Australia midfielder Aaron Mooy said. ”His career is amazing. So driven mentally and had so much ability and someone I’ve always looked up to.”

Cahill came on as a second-half substitute after plenty of speculation about whether he would even see the field after the 38-year-old forward was named in Australia’s final roster. He joined a select list of players to appear in four different World Cups and was trying to become the fifth player to score in four different tournaments.

The issue that followed Australia this entire tournament also followed Cahill. When they had chances in front of goal, the ball simply wouldn’t find its way into the net. Cahill’s best opportunity came in the 60th minute when a corner kick bounced around the box and fell to him about 12 yards out. But his shot was deflected away by Peru defender Christian Ramos.

”That was the main reason that we could control the game for big parts, and if you play like that and you have chances, you create chances, then you have to score. That was our problem,” outgoing Australia coach Bert van Marwijk said.

It was the third straight World Cup that Australia was eliminated in the group stage and the only time it has advanced to the knockout round remains the 2006 tournament. Both of Australia’s goals scored in this tournament came on penalties by Mile Jedinak.

Australia, Iran and Costa Rica, which still has a game left, are the only teams in the tournament that have failed to score during the run of play.

”We had a lot of chances … even in that first half and it just wouldn’t go in,” Jedinak said. ”On another day maybe a little bit of luck, but maybe that’s just been against us a little bit, particularly from open play. It wasn’t form a lack of effort or a lack of trying.”

The last three goals scored by Australia – two in Russia and one in Brazil – have all come from the penalty spot. Australia is only the second team in World Cup history to score three consecutive goals from the penalty spot. Ghana did it from 2006-2010. The inability to score in the run of play cost the Socceroos, especially in the second group match against Denmark when they settled for a draw and entered the final day needing help from France.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. All the scenarios Australia needed to fall in its favor ended with its loss and Denmark and France playing to a draw.

”We always just seemed to be a second late, a second off,” Australia midfielder Mark Milligan said. ”It’s disappointing but still proud to be part of this group.”

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