SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s Tim Cahill believes his appetite for playing football is as strong as ever and he is ready to bring that passion to bear to help drive his country to a fourth successive World Cup finals.
Cahill scored the majority of his country’s goals at the last three World Cups and is back in the Socceroos squad for their crunch qualifier against Iraq in Tehran on Thursday.
The 37-year-old became a cult hero at English clubs Everton and Millwall in the first decade of the century because of his goalscoring prowess and extraordinary commitment.
After stints in the United States and China, Cahill is now back home playing for Melbourne City and said his love for the game remains undimmed in his 20th year as a professional.
“My passion outweighs anyone‘s, in my opinion,” he told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph in Iran, where the qualifier is being held because of safety concerns in Iraq.
”I’ve had a great career but I also have a contract for next season to win trophies. My job at Melbourne City was to win trophies and help the club get on the map.
“I feel like I’ve ticked some boxes but I also feel there’s a lot to fulfil. I don’t see myself as a player who wants to finish any time soon, or doesn’t have the appetite.”
His lack of game time at Melbourne City means Cahill is unlikely to start against the former Asian champions in the Iranian capital but it would be a surprise if he did not come off the bench at some stage.
Cahill’s 48 goals in 94 matches starkly illustrate his value to the team but he has also always had the knack of scoring at key moments for his country.
After three straight draws in the third round of Asia qualifying for Russia 2018, Ange Postecoglou’s side will be desperate for a win on Thursday to keep pace with Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates at the top of Group B.
Only one point separates the top four and with only the first two guaranteed trips to Russia, Australia will be looking for a maximum return out of the Iraq match and next week’s home game against the UAE.
Cahill has this week been mentoring uncapped Australian teenager Riley McGree, a promising midfielder who was born the year his more experienced squad mate made his professional debut for Millwall.
And while it might be a good while away yet, Cahill said he would know when the moment came to hang up his own boots.
“The time comes when you want it to finish. The biggest thing is when you can’t be professional enough to perform,” he added.
“That’s an individual but also a collective decision to make. It has to be a motivational thing - I play because I’m passionate and I love the game.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford