By Steve Keating
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, June 18 (Reuters) - Australia's Tim Cahill earned a place in World Cup folklore on Wednesday with a spectacular goal, signing off in style in what was most likely his last appearance at this level.
Cahill struck a spectacular left-foot volley in the first half to put Australia level with the Netherlands, the highlight of a thrilling game which the Dutch won 3-2.
"It just felt so right to hit it, and I hit it sweetly," Cahill, 34, said of the goal which has drawn comparisons with some of the best ever scored in a World Cup.
"That's what it's all about, defining moments, another one in my career that I'm really proud of," added Cahill, who has now scored in three successive World Cups.
"Everyone dreams of playing on this stage. I want to leave a mark for all the kids back in Australia and around the world to be inspired by this today," he added.
Cahill, who has netted five of the 11 goals Australia have scored at World Cups, will miss the last group game against Spain after picking up a second yellow card. Australia are facing elimination after losing their first two games.
"It is what it is. I leave everything on the pitch and if we had got something out of the game today then I would have been fine," he said, shrugging off the suspension.
Cahill said that pushing the 2010 World Cup runners-up so hard would make more soccer fans take notice of Australia, a sports-mad nation where the game is growing in popularity.
"We'll earn a lot of respect from today's game," he said.
Australia are playing in their third successive World Cup, having previously qualified only in 1974.
Now playing in the MLS with New York Red Bulls, former Everton forward Cahill is Australia's best known player and has been at the heart of their development in the sport.
Cahill netted Australia's first ever World Cup goal in 2006 and is the country's record goalscorer.
The game against Spain on Monday may be the start of a new era as Australia start to learn to live without their talisman.
"Timmy will miss out but somebody else will get an opportunity," said coach Ange Postecoglou.
The coach was disappointed that Australia had failed to get any reward for their display against the Dutch.
"I said to the players that today was about playing our kind of football and if they are going to underestimate us let's make sure we punish them," he said.
"I thought we were really good." (Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Ken Ferris)