Preview: Caltex Socceroos vs Honduras
Bishkek to Bangkok; Amman to Adelaide; Saitama to Sydney; Melaka to Melbourne: Australia’s epic 2018 World Cup qualification path reaches its 22nd - and campaign defining - final match on Wednesday night.
It’s winner takes all when the Socceroos face Honduras in their second leg intercontinental qualifier playoff in Sydney tomorrow night (Wednesday, Nov 15).
Holding, on paper at least, an advantage of sorts having left San Pedro Sula with a 0-0 draw last Saturday in the first leg, Australia are rightly feeling confident about the second leg.
Though, of course, nothing in football is ever that straightforward, is it? Especially when so much is at stake (just ask Socceroo fans and players who went through the Iran 1997 playoff debacle at the MCG).
Expect another night of edge-of-the-seat drama to rival 12 years ago when the Australians famously qualified for their first World Cup in 32 years.
STORY OF THE FIRST LEG
Australia produced one of their finest away performances of the qualification campaign in San Pedro Sula.
While a winner would have been the icing on a mature display, Ange Postecoglou will be encouraged by his side’s level of control in testing conditions.
Honduras did provide one late scare through veteran Carlo Costly, but it was a rare moment of concern for the Socceroos in an otherwise impressive effort.
CURRENT WORLD RANKINGS
Australia will be boosted by the availability of classy central midfielder Mark Milligan, who was suspended for the first leg, and the potential return of Mat Leckie and Robbie Kruse.
But it’s the freshness of those who travelled to Central America that may give the home side the biggest advantage.
Postecoglou’s men received valuable treatment on a chartered flight home and utilised world-leading recovery techniques as they arrived almost 24 hours earlier than their opponents.
Honduras arrived on Monday and trained for the first time at Stadium Australia later in the day.
A lone goal for either team would be enough to decide this finely-poised tie, ensuring there will be nothing comfortable about Wednesday night.
An early goal to Honduras and this tie could turn in an instant. Likewise, if the Socceroos ram home their advantage early, Honduras will have a mountain to climb.
But the fact Australia have only lost one World Cup qualifier on home soil since 1981 inspires confidence, as does the first leg performance and the forever strong memories of 2005.
All that remains is to go out and get a result worthy of being at Russia 2018.
A huge crowd on the night, and those watching on across Australia and in the early hours back in Honduras, are set for a night of pure joy or abject misery.
It truly is, winner takes all.
Aussies Abroad: Hibs romp home and a defeat in England
There were Aussies aplenty in action around the world last night, with mixed results here and clean sheets there. Here's our wrap of all the overnight action! MORE AUSSIES ABROAD: Rogic and Vukovic win in Europe MORE AUSSIES ABROAD: Degenek denies Napoli England: a di
Harry Kewell inducted into Sport Australia Hall of Fame
With 52,000 fans watching on in Stuttgart and millions on TV sets at home, a cool-headed Harry Kewell latched onto a deep cross before swiping it into the net to send the Socceroos into the knock-out stage of a World Cup for the first time. This moment of brilliance against Cr
'I've taken my game to the next level': Connor Chapman on a career-changing time in Korea
Would your 22-year-old self be brave enough to leave home and start a new life in Korea Republic? That’s exactly the path Connor Chapman took in a quest to take his game to the next level. And almost two years on his life-changing move, the Aussie boy is taking one of Asia’
When are your Caltex Socceroos in action this weekend?
Mathew Leckie could win his first minutes of the season this weekend after shaking off an injury problem to get back out on the track for Hertha Berlin. Meanwhile, there's another big Premier League test in store for Mathew Ryan, while fierce rivalries are set to play out acro