It all comes down to this. The scenario is crystal clear for the Caltex Socceroos. Beat Honduras over two legs off the intercontinental play-off and qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
It’s high stakes and it’s pressure charged.
Like the tie against Syria last month, Australia has the benefit of playing the second and decisive leg in front of their home fans in Sydney.
It proved vital against the plucky Syrians and extra-time was needed before Tim Cahill popped up with the goal that kept Australia’s World Cup dream alive.
But the Caltex Socceroos set up that triumph by getting a positive result in the away leg, something they’ll be desperate to repeat against Honduras.
So how will Ange Postecoglou’s side approach the clash in San Pedro Sula?
One thing we know about the Caltex Socceroos boss is he has his own style and ethos and he sticks to it. It’s hard to see that changing here.
So expect Australia to play in their now customary 3-4-3 [or 3-2-4-1] formation and look to get on the front-foot from the outset.
Postecoglou likes his side to dominate possession. If they control the ball and the tempo, they should control the match.
There’s no better way to silence what will be a hostile home crowd at the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano.
The Caltex Socceroos boss will encourage his side to play forward and ask questions of Honduras’ defence, but they must be careful not to leave themselves exposed at the back.
Honduras have attacking players with plenty of pace and they’ll relish any space in behind Australia’s defence.
It makes the role of Australia’s wing-backs so important.
Josh Risdon, who performed so well away against Syria, and in-form Aziz Behich are likely to get the nod in that area.
While they’ll be expected to help out when the Caltex Socceroos are on the attack, there main job will be keeping things tight alongside what looks a settled back-three of Milos Degenek, Trent Sainsbury and Matt Jurman.
In these high-pressure games, experience will be crucial which should see skipper Mile Jedinak get a start in a defensive midfield role, most likely alongside Premier League star Aaron Mooy.
If they combine well and can dominate possession, it will go a long way to helping Australia get a positive result.
Something similar to what we saw against Syria in Malaysia will be what Postecoglou wants and if he can get it, it will take the Caltex Socceroos one step closer to Russia 2018.
THE AWAY GOALS RULE EXPLAINED
*The away-goals rule is only implemented if scores are level on aggregate after both legs.
*If that is the case, the team that has scored more goals during their away leg will progress.
*An example of this would be:
-Australia lose 2-1 away in the first leg in San Pedro Sula before returning to Sydney and winning 1-0.
-While the aggregate score would be 2-2, Australia would advance having scored one of their goals away from home, compared to none by Honduras.
*If away goals are equal, the tie would then be decided in extra-time or a penalty shoot-out.
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