WE ARE READY

Aussies wel­come back stars for their World Cup qual­i­fier

The Cairns Post - - FRONT PAGE - TOM SMITHIES ed­i­to­rial@cairn­spost.com.au face­book.com/TheCairn­sPost www.cairn­spost.com.au twit­ter.com/TheCairn­sPost

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.”

Pi­ict­turre:: BRETT COSTELLO

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..

Pic­ture: AAP

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.

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