Socceroos hit Sydney with the advantage
AUSTRALIA survived the trip to Honduras but the task is only poised at half-time.
The two-legged play-off between the Socceroos and Honduras ended nil-all after the first leg in the Central American nation, and tonight the return leg in Sydney will be a do-or-die blockbuster.
No goals were scored in Honduras and the game at home for Australia means the Socceroos head into the final leg as favourites.
The game in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula proved Australia were the better side on the day, with the Hondurans surprisingly unable to mount any credible threat to Mat Ryan’s goal.
A handful of genuine chances fell the way of Honduras but Australia’s often criticised defence proved impenetrable, with Trent Sainsbury making one last ditch tackle in particular.
Australia handled the hostile atmosphere with confidence and could have easily scored two or three goals if the ball had fallen their way.
Massimo Luongo and Tomi Juric both missed chances after the ball bobbled just as they attempted to shoot for goal.
That could say something about the state of the pitch on the day, which, after only half an hour of play, started to resemble a birthday cake at an office party – torn apart and in a mess.
In Sydney, the field will hopefully be better, but in a baffling occurrence, a monster truck event was staged at Stadium Australia three weeks ago.
Football in Australia is well versed in the juggling of the lack of stadiums and high number of events which impact on the playing surfaces.
As any footballer will tell you, the state of the field impacts the game greatly. The wrong bounce has led to goals in the past, as former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson will tell you.
The major plus for the Socceroos is the return of a number of key players.
Robbie Kruse returns from injury and both Matthew Leckie and Mark Milligan return from suspension.
According to Sportsbet, the Socceroos are favourites
❝ The major plus for the Socceroos is the return of a number of key players.
to qualify for the World Cup Finals.
The online bookmaker has Ange Postecoglou’s team as the $1.62 favourites to qualify following their hard fought 0-0 draw against Honduras who are $2.20 to make Russia.
The Socceroos are $1.80 to win the return leg, with the draw paying $3.40 and Honduras $4.50 to win the game. “We created the best chances in tough playing conditions so we’re tipping we’ll get the job done in front of the home fans, we just have to keep the faith,’’ said sportsbet.com.au’s Will Byrne.
Australia’s plan, however, does have one Achilles.
In football, the rules for two-legged play-off games mean the team which scores more away goals wins out in the event of a draw.
So, in layman’s terms, if Honduras score one goal in Sydney tonight, Australia must score two. The Socceroos must outscore their rivals and win the game outright.
If Australia play the way they did in Honduras, I would bet my money the Socceroos will be booking their flights to Russia by this time tomorrow tomorrow.
ADDED STRENGTH: Australia's Mark Milligan returns to the side after suspension and will likely sit alongside captain Mile Jedinak in the defensive midfield position.