The first time Tim Cahill ran into Bastian Schweinsteiger he earned a red card.
The second time he dissolved into tears.
Cahill, the hero of Australia’s 2006 World Cup campaign, was sent off on Sunday with a straight red card in the 56th minute for a late challenge on Schweinsteiger at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
He now misses the must-win match against Ghana.
“It’s one of the saddest moments in my football career to be in this position,” Cahill said, just as Schweinsteiger approached him after the game.
“It was not a red card,” Schweinsteiger told the Australian, who began to cry. “That was nice of him,” Cahill said.
“Sometimes players can make a meal of things on the pitch and it’s understandable because it gives them an advantage.”
Cahill said the red card was “one of the lowest points of my career.”
Cahill’s challenge came from behind but his studs were on the turf, his leg was bent and he clipped Schweinsteiger with his knee first.
Even so, Marco Rodriguez of Mexico showed him the red card.
Germany was already leading 2-0 and it powered away for a 4-0 victory. “If you look at in on the TV you can see he comes in from behind trying to make a tackle and then pulls out,” Australia captain Lucas Neill said.
Cahill, who plays as an attacking midfielder with Everton, had endured a frustrating night as Australia’s usually conservative coach Pim Verbeek pulled a surprise and played Cahill as striker.
Although Verbeek has employed a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout qualifying and friendly matches, he left the squad’s three strikers on the bench and played midfielders Richard Garcia and Cahill as two front men.
The move left Cahill, Australia’s most influential player, isolated and wasted up front and he barely threatened.
He appeared frustrated as the Germans took control but said he was happy to play anywhere on the field.
“It’s just an honour to play for my country,” Cahill said.
“You see a lot of players wanting to start who aren’t. I’d play left back – it wouldn’t bother me.”
Australia must now beat Ghana, who earlier on Sunday scored a 1-0 victory over Serbia, without Cahill, to have a chance of making the next stage.
Cahill became a national hero in 2006 when he scored twice in the final 10 minutes to lead the Socceroos to a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Japan, the country’s only victory in a match at a World Cup finals.
“I never doubt my own character – I’m 100 percent committed to the cause,” Cahill said.
“I’ll train my best to prove my worth for the last game.”