PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Tim Cahill’s stunning volley in the 21st minute made it two goals in two games at the World Cup for Australia’s talisman.
His yellow card just before half time for a cluttering tackle on a Dutch defender ensured it was also more than likely his last. Australia lost 3-2 to the Netherlands, which had opened its campaign with a 5-1 rout of defending champion Spain.
Cahill picked up a yellow in Australia’s opening 3-1 loss to Chile, and the booking against Netherlands automatically ruled him out of the Socceroos’ last group game against Spain. Both Spain and Australia already are out of contention.
The 34-year-old Cahill said he had no regrets about the way he played in his third trip to football’s marquee tournament, adding: “I’m very proud this is my last World Cup — As a nation we have earned the respect of the world today.”
He is expected to play in the Asian Cup on home soil next January, but 2018 is probably too far off for the New York Red Bulls star to prolong his international career.
Cahill, who played for Millwall and Everton in a long career in the English leagues, has long had the knack of scoring just when his teammates needed a goal.
He did it against Japan in 2006 in his first World Cup game, and he did it again last week against Chile, becoming part of a select group of international footballers to score in three consecutive World Cups.
On Wednesday, just seconds after Australia fell behind 1-0 down, he ran onto to a looping pass from Ryan McGowan, before blasting home a perfectly-timed volley on his weaker left foot from about 11 yards out.
He sprinted over to the corner flag and punched it to the ground — his trademark goal celebration — before being mobbed by his teammates.
Cahill said the goal was the kind he dreamed about when he was kid, playing in his back yard.
“When you look at your idols like (Marco) Van Baston, even Robin Van Persie, these are the kind of goals they score,” he said, clutching the Dutch striker’s shirt. “That’s what football is all about, these moments, and what better place to do it than the home of football in Brazil.”
His teammates lined up to praise him.
“It’s unbelievable — he’s a freak, every game he produces. In big moments, he seizes them every time,” Alex Wilkinson said. “I’m surprised if it wasn’t goal of the tournament. It’s going to take some goal to beat it.”
Australia manager Ange Postecoglou said Cahill had produced one of the signature moments of the tournament.
“Timmy was Timmy. He’s outstanding. I (knew) he was going to be a handful for any opposition,” Postecoglou said. “It was a world-class goal.”
Croatia 4, Cameroon 0
MANAUS, Brazil — Mario Mandzukic scored two goals to keep Croatia in the mix at the World Cup with a win over 10-man Cameroon, which cannot now advance from the group stage.
Mandzukic, who returned to the team at the Arena da Amazonia after sitting out the opening loss to Brazil through suspension, headed in a corner from Danijel Pranjic in the 61st minute and then knocked in a rebound in the 73rd of the Group A game.
Ivan Perisic also scored one goal and made another for Ivica Olic.
Cameroon was reduced to 10 men after midfielder Alex Song was given a red card for elbowing Mandzukic in the back in an off-the-ball incident in the 40th minute.
The team started without the injured Samuel Eto’o, the team’s best player.