One of the many surprises of the merely two-day-old World Cup wasn’t supposed to be Tim Cahill and Australia giving Chile all they could handle.
But the New York Red Bulls attacker led a spirited Socceroos side that fought back from an early 2-0 deficit Friday night before ultimately falling 3-1 in Cuiaba.
It was a 35th-minute header by Cahill, who used his signature aerial ability to out-leap the Chile defense, that nearly sparked a shocking rally. Cahill had another headed goal, a would-be equalizer in the 53rd minute, called back for his offside position.
“Tim was outstanding,” Australia manager Ange Postecoglou said in his postgame remarks. “Particularly in the air, he's still world class. There's not a player playing in this tournament who could go one on one with him with the ball coming in.”
Australia were able to get on the front foot after Chile seemingly eased up following early goals from Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia. It paid off with Cahill’s goal when he got on the end of a Mathew Leckie cross, rising over Chile defender Gary Medel to hammer it past goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
His disallowed goal came when found himself on the goal side of a Chile defender as Leckie whipped in a cross that he buried past Bravo once again. The call was the right one, although Postecoglou felt he was fouled three minutes earlier on another header attempt that flew off target.
“He scored a goal that was a touch offside, and I thought we could've had a penalty,” Postecoglou said. “The only way they could stop him was by holding on to his shirt. It's certainly a weapon of ours and we got the reward today, but I thought we could've got more rewards for it.”
After an early scare for Chile in the second half, they appeared to gain back some momentum and the Socceroos’ chances were at a premium for the remainder of the game. Chile’s Jean Beausejour slammed in the killer goal in stoppage time.
Australia actually outshot Chile 13-10, with Cahill making five attempts on goal.
“The players are very disappointed,” Postecoglou said. “They sensed the game was out there for them in the second half. … The late goal deflates you a little bit. It is what it is and we'll move on and prepare ourselves for another tough game in five days time [against the Netherlands on June 18] and make sure we're ready for it.”
Despite the sting of taking the loss, Cahill became just the third player to score goals in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, joining the Netherlands’ Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, who each recorded braces earlier in the day in their shocking 5-1 win over defending champions Spain.
It’s a nice feather in the cap for Australia’s all-time leading scorer.
“That goal, everyone sort of says that's what we do,” Postecoglou said. “It's another thing to say that's what we do and it's another thing to stop it. [Cahill] got some good service from both flanks and he was dangerous.”