Gary Cahill has endured a tough international career. Those millennial players emerging with his generation haven’t tasted much success with the national team as England’s performances at major tournaments have remained disappointing. Indeed, the national team has promised much on paper but delivered so little. That makes Cahill as hungry as anyone and, having endured a frustrating season with Chelsea, he’s clearly even more determined to make a difference on football’s biggest stage.
Cahill’s crying out for success within the international arena. After the golden generation and three consecutive quarter-finals in 2002, 2004 and 2006 (equating to England’s form of international success), he has come of age during a period of genuine pain for English fans. There’s no single big game disappointment – rather a series of mishaps, failures and objectivity – because England simply haven’t shown up. There’s no nail-biting penalty shout-out (unless you consider the bore-draw against Italy six years ago one of them) or last-minute goal or dramatic knock-out defeat. Just ordinariness.
What England fans will like from the reliable performer is his modesty when discussing the national team’s chances at FIFA World Cup 2018. Deep down he’s dreaming of lifting the trophy but, outwardly, he’s diplomatic about England’s chances of progressing through the tournament. What he really wants to do is make an impression.
If England aren’t going to win the World Cup this year – and, let’s face it, they’ve got very little chance of doing so – fans might get some cathartic satisfaction from at least getting through to the latter stages, perhaps beating a big team, or at least causing a scare for one of the favourites in the knock-out rounds.
There’s little optimism for England’s chances as international football betting hots up prior to the tournament but the squad appears upbeat with Harry Kane and others talking up the national team’s hopes.
In a young team with an average age of 26, Cahill, boasting over 50 international caps, is the most experienced member of the squad. In the absence of long-term first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart, Cahill will be the man many of the younger players turn to for advice. After all, he was there for the humiliating end to England’s Euro 2016 campaign at the hands of Iceland.
You need a steady head at the back. Southgate has picked the less experienced likes of Spurs right-back Kieran Trippier and Everton’s young goalkeeper Jordan Pickfordalongside Man City’s kamikaze centre-half John Stones, so it’s obvious this England team needs a composed set of shoulders. Cahill brings that along with a now-glittering club career, which has seen him recently add the FA Cup to a list of trophies that includes the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League and League Cup.
At 32 years of age, Cahill knows this could be his last international tournament. That will encourage him to give everything in Russia. He relished his return to the national team in the warm-up game with Nigeria recently, in which he turned in an excellent defensive display and provides Southgate with an experienced set of shoulders on which to build the team’s defence around.