SAMARA, Russia (Reuters) - Australia coach Bert van Marwijk rued the Socceroos’ failure to conjure a second goal in the 1-1 draw against Denmark on Thursday, yet left the nation’s proven World Cup game-breaker Tim Cahill cooling his heels on the bench for the entire match.
After Mile Jedinak’s first-half penalty canceled out Christian Eriksen’s superb early strike, the Socceroos streamed forward in numbers after the break but could not buy a goal in the Group C game.
With the minutes draining away, the game seemed set up for a cameo from Cahill, known affectionately in Australia as “Timmy time”, but Van Marwijk snubbed the 38-year-old striker, who has scored five of his 50 international goals at World Cups.
Daniel Arzani, the tournament’s youngest player and half Cahill’s age, was sent on instead, while tall striker Tomi Juric was also preferred to Cahill when Andrew Nabbout came off with a serious shoulder injury.
None were able to get past Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel, who made two fine saves in the dying minutes.
Both Australia’s goals at this tournament have come from Jedinak, who slotted his second penalty after the ball struck the arm of Yussuf Poulsen, the moment missed by the referee but captured by the VAR system.
Jedinak’s penalty in the 2-1 loss to France was also given after a handball in the area.
With only one point heading into their final Group C match against Peru, Australia need goals off their own boots and cannot hope to rely on another wayward arm to complete a hat-trick of handballs.
“The last part of the puzzle is that we must make the difference by scoring one more goal,” Dutchman Van Marwijk told reporters.
“When you are on this level, to create this many chances against Denmark, I must be satisfied with that.
“The only thing we have to do is put the ball in the goal.”
With Nabbout’s tournament over, the clamour in Australia to see Cahill given game-time will hit fever pitch ahead of the Peru match in Sochi on Tuesday, even if the former Everton stalwart has barely played over the past six months.
“Arzani should have been in earlier and questions must be asked of the manager as to why @Tim_Cahill was not used with 10-15 mins to go,” former Australia goalkeeper turned TV pundit Mark Bosnich tweeted.
Cahill has long conjured magic when his country needs him most, and without his brace of goals in a qualifying playoff against Syria, Australia might not have made it to Russia.
With their World Cup now on a knife-edge, “Timmy time” may be Australia and Van Marwijk’s last roll of the dice.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Ed Osmond