Football

Socceroos counting on injured Cahill

Australia veteran remains crucial 
despite uncertainty over his availability

PLAY-OFF, FIRST LEG
HONDURAS AUSTRALIA

Veteran goalscorer Tim Cahill remains indispensable as Australia head into their World Cup play-off with Honduras - even when he's injured and approaching his 38th birthday.

Cahill's enduring value was evident this week when he flew out to Honduras, wearing an ice pack and accompanied by a medic, despite badly twisting an ankle in the A-League days earlier.

He feels it was a "calculated decision" to travel for tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) first leg as Australia attempt to reach a fifth World Cup next year in Russia.

Said Cahill, who's unlikely to start the first leg: "It's the biggest two weeks of our lives. If we get to a World Cup, that's all that matters...

"I'll give it a go but, if not, I want to be in the trenches with my teammates."

Even if he doesn't start at the 40,000-capacity Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, Australians will be hoping their perennial match-winner will be back to his best by next week's second leg in Sydney.

The former Everton striker has played in the last three World Cups and lifted the 2015 Asian Cup with Australia, but his will to win - and his eye for goal - remain unsurpassed.

There's no better example than his two signature headed goals which guided Australia past Syria in the Asian play-off to set up the showdown with Honduras, the fourth-placed side in Concacaf qualifying.

"He's a great Australian sportsman," said Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, of their record goalscorer with 50 goals in 103 internationals.

"He's got an international record that stacks up against the best."

Cahill is a coach's dream, and his hunger to run and compete for everything is unmatched even now by his much younger national teammates.

Apart from his record international haul, in 2007 Cahill was also the first Australian to score at an Asian Cup, and his goals in 2015 - including a memorable bicycle-kick against China - helped them lift the trophy on home soil.

Socceroos legend Mark Schwarzer believes Cahill's experience will prove crucial to Australia.

The former Middlesbrough and Fulham goalkeeper said: "You need to have your experienced players, like Cahill, with the team to keep them calm and build team morale.

"He also has experience playing in South America and knows what it takes to play against a team like Honduras. He knows the hostility and off-field tricks that the team are going to experience.

"That kind of knowledge is invaluable for his fellow teammates."

In the absence of VfL Bochum striker Robbie Kruse, who has a knee injury, and defender Mark Milligan and forward Mathew Leckie, who are both suspended, Aaron Mooy is another man Australia will be counting on to deliver the goods.

The Huddersfield Town midfielder believes that it is important to leave Honduras with a decisive advantage, adding that they will be going for a victory.

"The way the boss wants us to play is to go all out and try and win the game," said Mooy, who is brimming with confidence after a successful start to the English Premier League season.

"It doesn't matter if it's away or home - that's what we will do.

"And hopefully, that will give us a good result to take back to Sydney." - WIRE SERVICES

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