Unfair way Socceroos can stay alive
GROUP C's finale at the World Cup group stage has even the most casual of Australian sports fans transfixed.
Despite claiming just one group point in their draw with Denmark on Thursday night, the Socceroos still find themselves with a chance - albeit slim - of making it to the knockout stage.
Denmark's defeat to France sees them ahead of Australia by three points but that hasn't totally secured them a spot next to the French in the round of 16.
It all rides on the results from tomorrow night's group double-header beginning at midnight tomorrow (AEST).
In short, the Socceroos need to thump Peru while France take down a scoreless Denmark.
A big win over Peru - ideally a three-goal romp - while conceding zero goals will be Australia's lifeline to overtake Denmark should the Danes be shut down by France's defence.
If the for and against goal tally between the sides is even, the decision on who will be sent home will come down to the amount of yellow and red cards each team has been slapped with in the tournament.
But if both sides play nice and keep their yellow tally of three apiece even, the process gets even more bizarre.
If by some cruel miracle every single sum levels out on Wednesday morning, the most heartbreaking method of knocking out a nation will be employed.
A hat draw.
Yep, years of training, planning, dedication and a strong performance on the world stage can leave a team with a coin toss chance of being sent home come crunch time.
Drawing lots from a container in a room full of officials hardly seems like a thrilling method of victory, does it? But such is the theatre of football.
The last time it happened in was 28 years ago in Italy, where Ireland edged out Holland for second place in Group F at the 1990 World Cup.
Regardless, the Socceroos need bulk goals if they wish to replicate their 2006 heroics and finish in the knockout stage.
Australia coach Bert van Marwijk has been torn to shreds by former Socceroos, journalists and a mob of disgruntled fans for his decision to leave veteran Tim Cahill - Australia's leading goalscorer - on the bench for the first two clashes in Russia.
At 38, the iconic Aussie striker has attracted questions about his fitness as the new wave of forwards and attacking midfielders takes shape in a coming-of-age World Cup campaign.
But his exceptional record up front and ability to produce big moments from tiny opportunities speaks for itself.
A dislocated shoulder to striker Andrew Nabbout sees the 25-year-old out of contention for tomorrow night's clash, but a dangerous Tomi Juric and Jamie Maclaren may see Cahill resigned to the bench for the entirety of his fourth World Cup visit.
"We have three strikers that are chomping at the bit at the minute to put their hand up for this next match," midfielder Mark Milligan said of Cahill in the lead-up to Australia's third match. "While I'm sure he is frustrated that he's not had his shot yet, the amount of help that he gives to the players around him … is unbelievable."
Defender Aziz Behich was in full confidence of Cahill bringing home the goods despite a lengthy stint off the pitch.
"If Timmy's been called upon, no doubt he'll do a (good) job for us," Behich said. "Timmy is a true professional, it shows the way he works on the pitch in training every day and he's just a proper example for all of us, not just the young boys. Mentally, he's always strong and ready to go, so we love having Tim as a part of our group and we all know what he can do."