Goal of the tournament? Aussies hail Tim Cahill wonder-strike; Netherlands go through
Socceroos bow out but not before giving Robin van Persie and company a run for their money
Agencies in Porto Alegre and Sydney
Tim Cahill’s wonder strike was hailed as the goal of the tournament in Australia on Thursday as the team bowed out of the World Cup with all guns blazing against the Netherlands.
Australians watched at home in the early hours of the morning as the Socceroos led the Dutch early in the second half in Porto Alegre before Holland scored twice to clinch a 3-2 victory and secure their place in the last 16.
Cahill scored his fifth World Cup finals goal, a spectacular volley, as Australia belied their status as underdogs.
“It just felt so right to hit it and I hit it sweetly. This is what it’s all about because everyone dreams of playing on this stage and I want to leave a mark for all the kids back in Australia and around the world to be inspired by this today,” Cahill said.
Australia media called the 34-year-old, playing at his third World Cup, Australia’s greatest ever player.
Watch: Arjen Robben puts Netherlands ahead
“For four glorious second-half minutes it looked as if Australia might be on the verge of perhaps their greatest ever World Cup result when Mile Jedinak’s penalty added to Tim Cahill’s first-half wonder strike to put them 2-1 up against the rampaging Netherlands,” the Sydney Morning Herald said.
“But the Dutch were able to gather themselves, draw level and finally see off the gallant challenge of their indefatigable opponents, who, in contrast to their opening match, at no stage looked overawed and gave a marvellous account of themselves.”
The Herald said: “The veteran frontman scored what might be the goal of the World Cup with a sumptuous left-footed volley which rattled the cross bar before bulging the net to bring Australia level with The Netherlands. It is, however, surely the last World Cup goal Australia’s talisman will ever strike as he is suspended from the final game.”
Australia will play Spain in their final game without Cahill after he picked up his second yellow card of the tournament.
The Australian newspaper said the Socceroos out-played, out-thought and out-ran the Dutch for large parts of the game.
“Once again, Tim Cahill was a hero for the Socceroos and surely etching his name as the country’s greatest player of all time,” the newspaper said.
Watch: Tim Cahill equalises for Australia
Social media was abuzz, with Cahill the centre of Twitter attention.
“Tim Cahill has now scored more World Cup goals (5) than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney combined (4),” tweeted one Australian fan.
“The last time we’ll see Tim Cahill at a World Cup. Thank you, now without a shadow of a doubt, our greatest ever,” said another.
One tweet summed up the national mood: “And now, once the dust has settled, the sobering realisation that we were so, so close. Oh football, you are a cruel mistress!”
A long-range strike by substitute Memphis Depay gave the Netherlands the victory after a brave, hard-charging Socceroos side threatened to earn a famous victory.
With the orange-clad Dutch fans and the Australians in yellow, Porto Alegre’s Beira Rio stadium looked like a giant fruit bowl in the early afternoon sun.
Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal named the same side that hammered Spain 5-1, a result which elevated the Oranje from unfancied status to ones-to-watch. He also stuck with a 5-3-2 formation to guard against an Australian offensive but switched to the 4-3-3 so beloved by the Dutch after half-time.
“I felt that Australia in the first half was the most dominating team and I wanted to change that,” he said.
“I felt that in the second half that this worked out much better and there was more pressure on the ball and that we created many more opportunities so that was the solution against Australia.”
It was against the run of play when man-of-the-match Arjen Robben opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Picking up the ball on the halfway line, he charged towards the goal like a bull to a matador and slammed the ball past Mat Ryan, only for Cahill to reply immediately.
Watch: Robin van Persie makes it 2-2
Nine minutes into the second half, Australia were awarded a penalty after Oliver Bozanic hammered the ball straight at Daryl Janmaat’s arm.
Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak cooly slotted the penalty past Jasper Cillissen, giving Australia a 2-1 lead and the chance to dream.
But this time it was the Netherlands’ turn to strike back quickly. In the 58th minute Robin van Persie banged in a well-controlled shot inside the penalty area.
Matthew Leckie almost gave Australia the lead again when he chested down a cross from a few metres out, but Cillessen was able to gather the ball.
Within moments, it was back up the other end of the pitch and Depay whacked in what proved to be the winner with a long-range shot, sealing the game in the 68th minute.
“I just wanted the players to get the reward for the way they went about things today,” said Australian coach Ange Postecoglou.
“I have put a lot of pressure on the players and the staff that we are going to be a certain type of team and take it to world class opposition, but it is one thing saying it and another thing doing it.
“They did that today but didn’t get their reward. It’s heartbreaking and massively disappointing.”
Watch: Memphis Depay's winner
Cahill got a yellow card for clattering into Bruno Martins Indi just before half-time. Martins Indi was stretchered off.
Van Persie will also be suspended for his team’s final group game after picking up a yellow card.
"The World Cup is the greatest tournament in the world, with all the best players and it’s tough, tough against Australia and again next week and the week after. It’s the World Cup,” Van Persie said.
Robben also paid tribute to the Aussie pluck.
“They played really aggressive today, you really could see they played for their last chance. They were very aggressive, especially the first half we didn’t come into our game and made a lot of mistakes.
The Netherlands now top group B on six points. They face Chile next in what promises to be a crunching encounter between two powerful sides.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters