BRISBANE, Australia - Australia's uncompromising forward Tim Cahill on Sunday warned China to expect a bruising encounter when the teams square off in the Asian Cup quarter-finals.
The feisty star said South Korea's players were apologising for making contact with him during Saturday's explosive Pool A clash, which the Koreans won 1-0 to leave the Socceroos as group runners-up.
The former Everton forward triggered panic in the Korean defence after coming on with 20 minutes left, although in retrospect the decision not to start Cahill, Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse backfired.
"You could see the fear straight away," Cahill told reporters, after the Australians had blown away the cobwebs from their defeat with a light training session.
"As soon as Lecks and Krusey came on as well, (South Korea) went backwards. Even physical encounters, they were apologising when they were bumping into me.
"I came on in front of the midfield and my main thing was that if they've got to worry about me, Tomi (Juric) is going to get some space - and if they're going to worry about Tomi maybe I'm going to get some space." "The main focus was driving forward and making them feel like they're in quicksand," added Cahill, promising to dish out another physical pounding against surprise package China on Thursday.
"That's how it's going to be when we play China. We're not going to be sidetracked by teams, because we believe (in) the way we play.
"If we can really affect and change the way they play, we press them, get into their faces and run them into the ground, and play the football we know, we're definitely going to cause them problems." Australia's physical approach took its toll on South Korea, with midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol out of the tournament with elbow ligament damage and Park Joo-Ho suffering concussion, according to South Korean media.
But the result did not favour Australia, who must now play again in hot and humid Brisbane, with its poor pitch, in the quarter-finals and miss out on a potential Australia Day semi-final at Sydney's 84,000-capacity Stadium Australia.
Instead, Australia are on course to face Asian Cup holders and four-time winners Japan in the second semi-final in Newcastle on January 27.
However, Cahill defended coach Ange Postecoglou's decision to tinker with the side which had smashed four goals past Kuwait and Oman, insisting he had no problem being benched.
"If Krusey scores, I score, Tomi scores, it would have been (a stroke of) genius," he said. "It's unfortunate not to get the result but we did really penetrate them and moved the ball well on occasions."