Road war­riors hope jour­ney is not over

Mercury (Hobart) - - SPORT - MATT WIND­LEY

IT will have been the long­est path any na­tion has ever taken to the World Cup.

And Soc­ceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has im­plored his road war­riors not to let the past 29 months of hard work go to waste as they pre­pare to meet their World Cup des­tiny at ANZ Sta­dium tonight.

Postecoglou has de­clared his en­tire squad fit and avail­able to start in the sec­ond leg of its in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal play­off against Hon­duras, which in­cludes star for­ward Tim Cahill and key winger Rob­bie Kruse.

Af­ter 32 years of heart­break pre­ced­ing its ap­pear­ance at Ger­many 2006, Aus­tralia has now made three con­sec­u­tive World Cups for the first time.

Suc­cess against the Cen­tral Amer­i­cans tonight will make that four on the bounce, fol­low­ing an ar­du­ous 21-game cam­paign that started with a 2-1 win in Bishkek against Kyr­gyzs­tan on June 16, 2015 — 884 days ago.

And while he says fail­ure to make it to Rus­sia will not be a fa­tal blow for the sport, Postecoglou said the re­wards on of­fer for suc­cess are huge.

“It’s very im­por­tant be­cause you want to be in the big­gest tour­na­ment in the world,” Postecoglou said.

“It’s a re­ward for the whole or­gan­i­sa­tion for all the hard work they’ve been through.

“This has been the long­est World Cup cam­paign taken on by any na­tion both in the amount of games and kilome- tres trav­elled, you don’t want all of that to mean noth­ing.

“For the game, it’s al­ways im­por­tant that you’re there when the World Cup is played.

“We saw Italy miss out and you re­alise the im­pact that has.

“But it doesn’t mean that not qual­i­fy­ing means that the game ceases to ex­ist.’’

Hav­ing in­spected the ANZ Sta­dium pitch, Postecoglou said “it’s not as good as it was a month ago” against Syria, but said it would still suit his at­tack­ing game plan.

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