Revealed: Why Cahill's famous Kaiserslautern heroics almost never happened

In a recent poll, Caltex Socceroos supporters overwhelmingly voted the equalising goal against Japan at the FIFA World Cup™ in 2006 as Tim Cahill's greatest moment for the national team.

It was an obvious choice.

The man that would become our leading all-time goalscorer and 108-cap icon fittingly wrote his name into folklore.

His decisive double on that warm June day inspired a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Japan that will live forever in the annals of Australia's football history.

But, as the legend himself reveals, his heroics could easily have never transpired.

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'In tears' on matchday

"It was actually one of the best days of my life and also a mixed emotion day," Cahill recalls in a special sit-down with Simon Hill, the man who voiced Australia's breakthrough moment.

"I was on the bench, that's one part of the story, but I was also the night before picked to start.

"When you got to warm up and see the crowd, it was like we were playing at home. There were Aussie songs going on, there was a buzz.

"It was a massive, massive learning curve in my career to feel so many emotions not only myself but for the country.

"The night before, even in training, I was locked on. I remember doing analysis work looking at the defenders, looking for spaces, the set-pieces.

"It was probably one of the most shattering moments… [being told] I wasn't starting. I was in tears. It was only natural.

"It was the first time ever I've sat in the back of a team meeting, because I didn't want to sit at the front or middle and let the boys see me crying."

Hiddink 2006

Belief in each other

How, then, did he find the poise to step on as a second-half substitute and swing an essential three points back in Australia's direction?

"I took it on the chin," the Everton great says.

"I thought of the country, I thought of my team-mates, and I also thought – I think the selection was to start Harry [Kewell], one of the greatest players in the national team – he was all of our idols growing up.

"You have to get on with it. It's the best and biggest lesson I've ever had in football.

"The best thing about our team was that we were all so humble, that we don't say too much and that we look after each other and things like that.

"We really do believe in each other, especially that group.

"We knew how good we were as players, but not many players talked about themselves.

"We talked about how hard it was to go overseas at such a young age and ply a career, and still continue year after year, trying to break the barriers to be recognised."

In Kaiserslautern, in the space of eight defining minutes, they did just that.

Tim Cahill 2006

Straight back to business

For all the joyous scenes Cahill's goals and subsequent assist for John Aloisi evoked in the wee hours Down Under, it took time for the true impact of the victory to dawn on the 23 players involved.

The touchline pile-on that followed the second goal soon made way for more muted satisfaction as a seasoned group revised its gaze towards grander objectives.

"Even in the changeroom I didn't really celebrate," Cahill explains.

"It was like we were driven into robots. Guus [Hiddink], Johan Neeskens… we had a lot of experienced boys that never let you get carried away.

"I don't think we had access to the internet. The computers were switched off. It didn't really sink in. We didn't see or hear the noises of what we had just done.

"We didn't take it in properly. It was all business.

"When you see the footage afterwards on TV of Sydney, Melbourne, every state in Australia jumping up, and thousands of people congregating together in public places: we looked at each other like we'd united Australia in a big way.

"[But] we didn't get it [at the time]. We just got three points in a World Cup, in one of the biggest moments for us as a national team."

What they also achieved, of course, was respect at the game's pinnacle and a spot among Australia's most treasured sporting moments.

Tim Cahill celebrates scoring against Japan in 2006