Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jedinak & Cahill: Standing tall and flying high

On the return from the halftime break at last night’s Asian Cup Final, two inspirational leaders led the Australian team back onto the pitch; Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill. Both are vastly different men, from their personalities to the path of their careers, but their stature in Australian and world football is high above. Their influence on the relatively new Socceroos squad has been instrumental, with the young squad feeding off their leadership qualities.

Leading the way, Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill.
Four weeks ago Tim Cahill came out and said he would take full responsibility for the goal scoring during the Asian Cup. For any player, in any team, in any competition; that’s a big statement, but leading into one of the biggest competitions of international football, that’s huge. Cahill was undeterred by a media response questioning whether he had placed too much responsibility on himself. Australian Manager Ange Postecoglou was unfazed by the statement, professing that it is Cahill’s job to score the goals, so he should be taking responsibility. 

Cahill, the all-time leading Socceroos goal scorer, took an approach that had ‘follow me’ written all over it. Realising the pressure that could be building on the young Socceroos strikers’ pre-tournament, Cahill’s decision to put his hand up and head the responsibility and media focus was done with a team mindset and extra mental belief in his own ability. Whilst Cahill alleviated the pressure on his teammates, he still had to score goals for his thought process to be effective. So in the 33rd minute of Australia’s first game against Kuwait, none other than Tim Cahill rammed home the Socceroos first goal of the competition. Cahill went on to feature heavily in Australia’s pool matches, and when the team needed someone to stand up in the quarter final against China, Cahill arrived scoring two of arguably his best ever goals. 

Tim Cahill is without question Australia’s greatest ever Footballer. His ability to position himself on the football field to find an opportunity is world class. His self-belief in taking on the world’s best on the game’s biggest stage is downright inspiring. He is the type of player that just does not care who he is playing, but still maintains a healthy respect for all his rivals. Cahill’s will to win and unfazed determination to be successful make him one of Australia’s best sports competitors. The never-give-up attitude and courageous fight personifies the Australian spirit. Cahill is a fiery and aggressive player with plenty of opinion off the field, but he backs up any words with his displays every time he pulls on a jumper. Whether it is club, international or something else, Cahill’s loyalty and the way he represents a team are some of his most valuable traits. You always know what you’ll get from him, 100% every time. And in today’s age, that’s hard to find. 

Posing a different set of traits is Australian Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak. Mile was made captain before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by Ange Postecoglou. Not as well-known to the average fan as Tim Cahill back then, Jedinak’s stature has been there for all to see since taking on the role. Through Brazil and into the Asian Cup, Jedinak’s leadership has stood taller than the man himself. Standing at six-foot-two and playing the in the middle of the park as a defensive midfielder, he has been a prominent figure and leader for the rest of his teammates. 

Jedinak’s style is much different to Cahill’s, he could be thought of as an introvert who lets his actions do the talking. While keeping his commitments to the media with regular interviews, he never seems to let too much out. Behind closed doors and in the team circle, he may be a vocal captain, but leading the way with impermeable performances, the Socceroos have had a staunch and grand leader to follow.   

Mile’s style may reflect the path he has taken on his way to becoming Australian, and English Premier League club, Crystal Palace’s captain.  Born in Western Sydney and playing junior football in Parramatta and Mount Druitt, Mile spent years playing in the NSW premier league for Sydney United before making it into the A-league, and later into Turkey before being drafted into the Crystal Palace side. The fact that Jedinak drove six times a week from the western suburbs with no contract to train with the Central Coast Mariners before earning a spot shows his work ethic and devotion. 

While Ange Postecoglou may have found his path a reason to make him captain considering the amount of A-league players now in, or stalking the squad from the competition, being made captain of an English Premier League side has to be a feat that would have once been considered impossible. Jedinak obviously stands tall in height on most football fields, but when he plays for Crystal Palace or Australia, he stands even taller in stature. His involvement in and around the centre of the park provide a stable base to build game plans from. Hard work, prominence, and commitment are what you get from Mile Jedinak. 

Australia finished off the Asian Cup last night with a win over South Korea in extra time thanks to a goal from a committed James Troisi, set up by Tomi Juric’s never-give-up dribble. Both young players in the Socceroos squad who have spent the last month in the company of two of Australia’s finest sport’s leaders. Without Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak, one has to wonder whether Troisi and Juric would have displayed the actions they did to win the game. The leaders’ influence has been critical in turning the generation-changing Socceroos into a force for years to come. Who will be leading the way in Russia in 2018 for the World Cup? With Cahill and Jedinak to follow as examples, we should have some players itching at the bit to turn their dreams into reality.