Some 2022 World Cup ambassadors have had more decorated careers but few have the credentials of Tim Cahill. The Australian, with an English father and Samoan mother, has made a name for himself in a country that has won the World Cup and played in countries that won’t in the near future, including India. He has played in four World Cups, was his country’s first goalscorer in the quadrennial showpiece and is the sporting director of Qatar’s famed Aspire Academy in Doha, where he now lives with his family.
This allowed Cahill to answer a wide range of questions from media spread across five continents. Some specific ones such as Africa using local coaches; what Qatar should expect from their team; the fan experience in a country where beer is not an essential commodity for those more generic as its favorites to win West Asia’s inaugural World Cup.
“Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany can all win but England will be an outside force,” he said at Al Janoub Stadium on Wednesday.
It was a comment, he said, based on spending 14 years in England. “I can speak from experience of how the players will be at this point in the season (the World Cup runs from November 20 to December 18). He (England) is only seven hours away from route, which means you can sleep during the flight and then you have the best facilities to train and prepare for. You’re not traveling between cities. And that front line! It’s really going to be a matter of who to leave out “, did he declare.
With Marcus Rashford back in form, Raheem Sterling one of the few bright spots at Chelsea, Harry Kane doing like Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka sparkling at Arsenal, Gareth Southgate would have an abundance problem and Cahill said a lot would depend on the selection team.
It was a point he also made for Brazil, as well as ‘how well would Neymar bond with the rest of the squad for a potential seven games’.
For Cahill, five African teams bringing their own coaches was a sign of the development of the game on the continent which has around 500 players in Europe. “It’s also good to see former players in senior positions trying to develop the game,” he said, referring to Samuel Eto’o at the helm of the Cameroon FA. “He wants to develop a system that is more bottom-up.”
Since there is no intercity travel and the gap between countries has narrowed, Cahill has planned a “High Performance Tactical World Cup where there will be a lot of upheaval and the most difficult for the best teams will be to cross the group”.
Being at a World Cup influences the state of football in this country, he said. “I know that’s the case for Australia and now it’s up to the federation to translate that for a new generation. So for Qatar whoever scores the first goal will be a defining moment. I don’t have didn’t realize its impact until I retired. Recording their first point, winning the first game will have a lot of impact on the game here.
When the conversation turned to the fan experience, Cahill talked about the need to enjoy different cultures. “I’ve been to China where they take their shoes off before entering a room and I now live here where the football stops for prayers.” To HT’s follow-up question on whether this World Cup could convey another way to enjoy the experience, Cahill shared his experience in four campaigns: from perfect things in Germany to monkeys stealing food on the table in South Africa. And said: “After the pandemic, this will be the biggest event to bring the world together.”
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