Tim Cahill ‘s farewell appearance for Australia will be limited to the last five minutes as the Socceroos look ahead to life without their record scorer — and wonder how to replace his goals.
Cahill, 38, will earn his 108th and final cap in Tuesday’s friendly against Lebanon in Sydney, but coach Graham Arnold has thornier matters at hand ahead of Australia’s Asian Cup defence in January in the United Arab Emirates.
Arnold said on Monday that Cahill, the former Everton forward, would be restricted to a five-minute cameo as the Socceroos aim to make the most of valuable match practice.
“The first 85 minutes is all about our performance,” Arnold told Fox Sports, ahead of Australia’s final outing before regrouping in late December for their Asian Cup preparations.
“There (are) no friendly games — the last five minutes can be for Timmy.”
The move echoes last week’s somewhat controversial goodbye for England’s record scorer Wayne Rooney, who came out of international retirement to make his final appearance as a substitute against USA.
While England have come on leaps and bounds without Rooney, reaching this year’s World Cup semi-finals, Australia haven’t found Cahill so easy to replace.
The talismanic Cahill, known for his prodigious leap and knack of scoring important goals, has hit the net 50 times for his country, playing in four World Cups.
New-look Australia’s lack of goals was apparent in Saturday’s 1-1 stalemate against South Korea, when the hosts dominated but had to wait until stoppage time for Massimo Luongo’s equaliser.
Arnold, who took charge after this year’s disappointing World Cup campaign, said the problem was so acute that he had ordered his forwards to do extra “finishing practice” at their clubs.
“We will set the players’ programmes after this game, especially the strikers, that when they go back to club-land where we can’t control what they do at their clubs, that they work on a lot of finishing practice,” Arnold said.
“Goal-scoring becomes a habit. It is about not only putting the ball in the back of the net, but it’s also about having the confidence and the belief to score goals. It’s also something that becomes natural for a player.”
Among the starters is set to be South Sudanese refugee Awer Mabil, who plies his trade with Denmark’s Midtjylland.
The winger shone for the Socceroos off the bench against Korea, and Arnold hinted strongly the 23-year-old could be in the starting line-up.