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Tim Cahill: Australia's World Cup Hero

The postponement of soccer around the world recently has left me, like many others, with no choice but to watch old highlights to get my fill. While watching clips from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil I came across a moment that instantly became an all-time classic: Tim Cahill's stunning volley against the Netherlands in a 3-2 group-stage defeat.

While that goal, which he said was "like an out-of-body experience" surely stands as Cahill's most memorable moment of World Cup heroics, it is far from the only one. He leads Australia in World Cup goals with five in nine appearances, having played at four World Cup tournaments. 

That tally gives him a better scoring record on the world's biggest stage than players such as Zinedine Zidane (five in 12), Henrik Larsson (5 in 13), Gonzalo Higuain, Edinson Cavani and Michel Platini (each five in 14).

Throughout his career, Cahill was the bane of corner flags everywhere as well as a savior to the Australian national team. He bowed out of international duty as the Socceroos' leading scorer with 50 goals in 108 caps. As he showed in his club career, including in a stint with the New York Red Bulls, he was happy to play anywhere for his team. Cahill constantly put in a shift whether playing as a striker, attacking midfielder or in a deeper role in center midfield. 

Cahill burst onto the World Cup scene in 2006 with a game-winning display off the bench against Japan. Entering play early in the second half, he scored twice in five minutes after the 80th minute and assisted the third in stoppage time. 

His tournament stats are laudable, but equally impressive are his performances in World Cup qualifiers. He finished the 2006 Oceania qualification round as the top scorer with seven goals and started the second leg of the playoff against Uruguay, which saw the Socceroos qualify for Germany after penalty kicks. 

His most prolific qualifying campaign came in the lead-up to 2018 when he finished with 11 goals, second only to two players with 16 apiece. After going more than a year without a goal for the Socceroos, Cahill struck gold with two trademark headers to help the side past Syria in another playoff, the second coming deep into added time. The win saw them advance to a playoff final against Honduras, which they won on aggregate, 3-1, to seal passage to Russia. 

Cahill's second goal in the game against Syria would prove to be his last in the colors of his country, his 50th overall and 24th in 36 World Cup qualifiers. He retired as a Socceroos legend and a national hero, second in appearances (108) only to Mark Schwarzer (109). Though it isn't much consolation for the group-stage exit in 2014, he can also claim to have scored one of the greatest World Cup goals in living memory.

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