“Gutted” Socceroos superstar Tim Cahill regards Australia’s World Cup campaign as an achievement, not a failure, and says it was one of his weirdest football experiences.
A handful of Socceroos, including Cahill, fellow midfielder Jason Culina and striker Josh Kennedy, returned to Sydney on Friday afternoon following Australia’s elimination from the 32-team tournament at the group stage.
A calamitous 4-0 loss to Germany was followed by two vastly improved performances in a 1-1 draw with Ghana and a 2-1 win over Serbia.
“People see it as somewhat of a failure, but I look at it as we’ve achieved something, because it was a bad start but we picked it up and did really well,” Cahill told reporters at Sydney Airport.
The returning players were philosophical rather than upset about Australia’s elimination on goal difference behind Ghana and preferred not to dwell on their opening loss to Germany and the controversial team selection for that game.
Coach Pim Verbeek opted to start without a specialist striker against Germany, leaving his usual spearhead Kennedy on the bench.
Kennedy stopped short of criticising Verbeek, but was surprised and disappointed by his omission.
“Yeah, definitely, I expected to play but it didn’t turn out that way,” Kennedy told reporters at Sydney Airport.
Asked if Verbeek came up with a mistaken game plan against Germany, Kennedy said: “We lost 4-0, so obviously those tactics for that game plan didn’t work.”
After starting the two lead-up games in South Africa against Denmark and the United States, Kennedy said it was a big surprise to miss out against Germany.
He came off the bench for the final quarter in the 1-1 draw with Ghana and started in the 2-1 win over Serbia, where Verbeek finally started Cahill and Kennedy together.
“Me up front with Timmy behind, it’s always worked,” Kennedy said. “He’s always scored or I’ve always scored goals when we’ve played together.”
“At times it’s not the prettiest football but it works and I think in the Serbia game, in the second half, it showed it worked… we scored goals and had another couple of chances to score.”
Cahill recognised Australia had missed a chance to progress deep into the tournament, with some less heralded teams advancing in the part of the draw Australia would have been if they had picked up one more point.
“I’m definitely gutted but, the thing is, it is what it is and you’ve got to get on with it,” Cahill told reporters.
“It’s probably one of the weirdest experiences for me as a footballer, having such a weird start in the World Cup and nearly being over, to finishing on a high.
“I think there’s so many positives, the young guys that came through… Yes, we might have a few older players retiring, but I’m positive for Australian football…It’s not going to be easy but, the thing is, we’ve got potential.”
Like Cahill, Culina was optimistic about Australia’s future heading into a busy next 12 months which includes the Asian Cup early in 2011 and the start of a new World Cup qualifying campaign a few months later.
“I think it’s looking bright. If you look in our squad at the moment, there’s a good mix of experienced players and some good young players coming through,” Culina said.