Sunday Herald Sun - - SOCCER - FOR­MER SOC­CEROO

TWELVE years ago we left the Mon­te­v­ideo caul­dron con­fi­dent we had done enough to set our­selves up for World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

The Soc­ceroos of 2017 would be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same emo­tions af­ter a very good per­for­mance away to Hon­duras.

In the play­ers’ eyes, Hon­duras is beat­able in Aus­tralia, af­ter the Soc­ceroos al­most beat them on their home patch.

Vul­ner­a­ble, too, once travel is fac­tored in.

Ange Postecoglou would be proud of his men, but he would have quickly turned the team’s at­ten­tion to Wed­nes­day’s sec­ond leg.

The fo­cus is on re­cov­ery now and this is where the med­i­cal and fit­ness staff earn their money and where those small per­cent­ages are mul­ti­plied.

You can’t per­form mir­a­cles in three days and in many ways the game has al­ready been played out be­cause the work is in the prepa­ra­tion. This is where Aus­tralia has made huge strides in the past 12 years and where the Soc­ceroos’ ex­ten­sive travel ex­pe­ri­ence will play a part.

Re­flect­ing on 2005, when we were whisked out of Mon­te­v­ideo on a Qan­tas char­ter flight and landed in Syd­ney hours ahead of the Uruguayans, it makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence phys­i­cally and men­tally.

Play­ers may be in lock­down but they are still ex­posed in the me­dia. When we saw im­ages of the Uruguayans come off their flight look­ing stressed and tired, it gave us such a boost that men­tally we had al­ready equalised in Syd­ney be­fore Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell set me up in the first half.

On the Soc­ceroos’ char­ter flight, which lands to­day well ahead of the Hon­durans, the play­ers will be ro­tated through the mas­sage ta­bles and staff will mon­i­tor hy­dra­tion.

The play­ers will re­flect on the game’s key mo­ments and their suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion in good spir­its, but ex­pe­ri­enced heads Mile Je­d­i­nak and Tim Cahill will en­sure they don’t get too happy with them­selves.

If some­one had of­fered me a 0-0 draw in San Pe­dro Sula pre-game, I would have signed off straight away.

At the fi­nal whis­tle, I would have been dis­ap­pointed not to win. You can dis­sect the missed chances, but now you just ac­cept it and look for­ward to Wed­nes­day know­ing you’re in a good po­si­tion.

In the sec­ond leg, scor­ing will be key but just as vi­tal will be min­imis­ing mis­takes be­cause a score draw (1-1, 2-2 or 3-3) would ad­vance Hon­duras.

We are the bet­ter team, we have a phys­i­cal edge and we will score.

As good as the Soc­ceroos were, they still looked vul­ner­a­ble in that tran­si­tion pe­riod when los­ing pos­ses­sion.

Be­ing on the of­fen­sive on Wed­nes­day night, that could leave us more ex­posed de­fen­sively.

The only way Hon­duras can cap­i­talise is from Soc­ceroos mis­takes — a bad pass, a lost ball in tran­si­tion and leav­ing our­selves ex­posed.

That’s where the pres­ence of Je­d­i­nak, my long-time mid­field part­ner, makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence.

He slots into good po­si­tions, or­gan­ises, leads and intimidates the op­po­si­tion, which is an im­por­tant fac­tor.

The char­ter gives him a bet­ter chance of re­cov­er­ing for the sec­ond leg de­spite his lack of game-time for As­ton Villa this sea­son.

Aziz Be­hich was very en­er­getic on the left and one of the few who didn’t look af­fected by the con­di­tions. You can see he’s play­ing reg­u­larly for his Turk­ish club.

I per­son­ally don’t like too many changes and I be­lieve the ro­ta­tion has af­fected the con­fi­dence of some­one like Mas­simo Luongo over the past 12-18 months.

Luongo, who starred af­ter tak­ing my start­ing spot at the 2015 Asian Cup, did well in Hon­duras, but I would have ex­pected him to play a much big­ger role in qual­i­fy­ing.

But it comes down to ex­pe­ri­ence in games like this and Ange has given lots of younger play­ers a go, so enough of

Soc­ceroo Tomi Juric jumps over Hon­duran de­fender Henry Fig­uroa dur­ing the first-leg World Cup in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal play­off yes­ter­day morn­ing in San Pe­dro Sula. Be­low right, goal­keeper Mat Ryan typ­i­fies the Aus­tralians’ de­ter­mi­na­tion in front of a hos­tile crowd. The Soc­ceroos can clinch their place at Rus­sia 2018 in the sec­ond leg in Syd­ney on Wed­nes­day night. Pic­tures: AP, AFP

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