WE ARE READY
Aussies welcome back stars for their World Cup qualifier
After 22 matches, 29 months and countless kilometres travelled by the Socceroos to play in 12 countries, it all comes down to this.
Australia’s World Cup hopes go on the line at ANZ Stadium tonight against Honduras in the last leg of their qualifying playoff.
A 0-0 draw in San Pedro Sula in the first leg has the tie delicately poised. Honduras need to win or claim a scoredraw to progress.
Australia must win or triumph on penalties should the full-time score be another deadlock.
It’s bound to be a night of high drama, but will the Sydney Olympic venue witness a third qualifying triumph?
In 2005, John Aloisi’s penalty sent Australia to a first World Cup in 32 years.
Josh Kennedy’s late header against Iraq in 2013 was enough to take the Socceroos to the last tournament in Brazil.
This year, Australia is all-in with coach Ange Postecoglou’s all-out attacking style, and the Socceroos coach remains confident it will deliver the result the nation craves.
“This has been the longest World Cup campaign taken by any nation both in the amount of games and in kilometres travelled,” Postecoglou said. “You don’t want all that to mean nothing.”
Ironically, the one constant through the journey – Postecoglou himself – isn’t sure whether he’ll be there after the final whistle.
A report last month of his intended resignation sent shockwaves through the Australian soccer landscape.
Postecoglou’s future is not the main game tonight, but it’s certainly an intriguing sideshow.
The coach was buoyed by Australia’s bright performance in Honduras and is as sure as he can be of progressing to Russia next year.
“I’ve never wavered in my confidence and belief in the players and that’s because I’ve sensed in them they’ve always had a belief in what we’re doing,” he said.
“Sometimes the results haven’t been as desired but the performances have rarely dropped.
“We’ve played 21 games and lost two.”
“IT’S there if we really want to take it.”
It’s the simplest message, yet the most important, the words Tim Cahill will relay to his teammates. Time and again the Socceroos’ leading goalscorer has seized the moment; tonight against Honduras he wants every one of the Socceroos to do the same.
In 2006 Cahill made history as the first Australian to score at a World Cup, and he hasn’t stopped since. For players like Trent Sainsbury and Robbie Kruse, rubbed out of the last World Cup through injury, the chance to follow in his footsteps is tantalisingly close.
“This is going to be massive for our country,” Cahill said. “It’s 90 minutes of football, to create more history for our country.
“That’s got to be their motivation, for them and the next group of lads coming through. They’ve got to understand how big it is.
“That’s the biggest thing of having Mile (Jedinak) in camp and now Millsy (Mark Milligan) back, we can drive inhouse messages to the lads about preparation.
“Little things that make a difference to the night.
“The most telling thing on Wednesday night will be composure.
“We’re ready, I like what I see. It feels like this is our time. On the night it will come down to someone taking their chance, the defining moment that separates men from boys.”
At 0-0 the tie is poised after the first leg, yet Cahill believes things are falling into place for the home side.
“If we really just get into gear and give everything for this one game and click, it should be really positive,” he said.
“I feel that’s the biggest that I like, what I see at the moment. Everything seems to be going really fluently.
“Clean sheet away from home, disciplined, resilient, compact; (Honduras) didn’t really have too many chances compared to how many we had.
“On a nice playing pitch and us really well drilled, it’s there if we really want to take it. That’s why I think it will be an awesome night if we can click.
“One thing we’ll be doing is to take the nerves away from as many players as possible so they’re prepared, not overawed by the occasion.”
Coach Ange Postecoglou shared his star striker’s optimism.
“The players have put in a massive shift over the last two and a half years to get us to this point,” he said.
“I’m sure (a result) will come and then the opportunity will be there to test themselves against the best in the world.”
FRESH FACES:: Aaron Mooy of the Socceroos wiillll toniight wellcome back compatriiots Tiim Cahiillll,, Robbiie Kruse and Matthew Leckiie for Australliia’’s Worlld Cup pllayoff agaiinst Honduras at ANZ Stadiium,, Sydney..
MOTIVATED: Socceroo Tim Cahill, seen here during a training session at ANZ Stadium in Sydney this week, is spurring on his teammates ahead of tonight’s match against Honduras.