World Cup 2014: 'I know if I make one slip Balotelli can win the game,' says Gary Cahill

The Chelsea defender is playing in his first international tournament but is not worried by the prospect of facing Italy and their unpredictable striker


Gary Cahill is reflecting on the life of a centre-half at the elite level, a world where the margins are so fine, where the tiniest slip in concentration means that a goal can be conceded and a game can be lost. He considers the task that awaits him in six days' time when he will line up against Italy and Mario Balotelli in Manaus.

The problem with Balotelli, of course, is one never knows which Mario will turn up on any given day or, more pertinently, on Saturday in England's first World Cup final group game.

"That's dangerous isn't it?" Cahill reflects. "He's got potential to stick it in the top corner from 30 yards. He's an unpredictable player but on his day obviously one of the best. Another dangerous player, but you come up against them every game you play.

"I played against him a couple of times at Manchester City and he was tough. Another time he came off after 60 minutes. Unpredictable. At times he can be world class. But he's certainly one player to watch out for.

"That's the nature of my position. Many times I've come off the pitch and thought: 'I was unbelievable there for 87 minutes'. All of a sudden you switch off, or a cross comes in, the striker scores and it wrecks your whole game. I think that's just the nature of my position as Joe [Hart] or Ben [Foster] or Fraser [Forster] would say."

Cahill, 28, is now England's most established centre-half. He is a Champions' League and Europa League winner at Chelsea, who have just sold another centre-half, David Luiz, one of Brazil's most recognisable stars, but kept their rock-solid Englishman. Of course, Luiz attracted a premium price and Cahill is a precious homegrown player, but even so it demonstrates just how far he has come.

In many respects he is one of the unsung success stories of English football. A modest, unflashy type, he took his time coming through. Aston Villa never saw the potential in him and Gary Megson signed him at Bolton Wanderers where he played four years before Chelsea made their move in January 2012.

It is interesting to hear him describe how the challenge has changed. At Bolton it was a case of impressing in a team that, against the big boys, would, almost inevitably concede at some point. Playing for one of Europe's elite clubs, he is rarely under that kind of constant pressure but he knows that, in his own words, "you might have three or four crucial things in a game to do and if you do them right, you'll keep a clean sheet."

Not that he is going about wide-eyed with wonder at his new status. He has believed from the start that he was good enough. "I have played in the Premier League since I began. I took a step back at Villa when I had to move but it was just about having that opportunity. At Bolton I played week-in, week-out and from there Chelsea came in and gave me the opportunity to go to that next level. I am thankful for that but I felt like I could do it. I just needed the opportunity."

He was behind the likes of Michael Dawson and Matt Upson for the 2010 World Cup finals squad and never got close. Since that tournament he has been in every England squad when he has been fit, and then on the brink of Euro 2012 he was shoved by Dries Mertens in the last warm-up game against Belgium, crashed into Hart and broke his jaw. As a result, Brazil will be his first international tournament.

"I try not to think about it because that was a piece of bad luck in my career and I was about to get on the plane," he says. "There is no reason why I should think about it. I have gone through this season, touch wood, with very few injuries."

As a kid he supported Sheffield Wednesday and watched Des Walker, an English centre-half who had made his name internationally at the 1990 World Cup finals as an unflappable defender. Not a bad role model. "I thought he was a great athlete as well," Cahill recalls, "he was quick, wasn't he?"

It has been a long journey to get here but Cahill has never disappointed each time he has gone up a level.

"I'm proud of what I've achieved. I'm proud that I've worked hard and gone through those progressions," he says. "It's not always the fact that you start at Manchester United as a kid and crack on and play for England. Sometimes the progression is different."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home