Another step in longest journey
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 play-off against Honduras, which includes star forward Tim Cahill and key winger Robbie Kruse.
After 32 years of heartbreak before its appearance at Germany 2006, Australia has made three consecutive World Cups for the first time.
Success against the Central Americans tonight will make that four on the bounce, after 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 said failure to make it to Russia would not be a fatal blow for the sport, Postecoglou said the rewards on offer for success were 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 – the players and the staff – 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 kilometres 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.”
The hosts will stride on to the Homebush ground backed by a formidable home record that has seen it lose just one of its last 28 competitive games on Australian soil – a loss to South Korea in Brisbane in the group stage of the 2015 Asian Cup.
Changes are expected tonight, with fresh legs to be implemented.
Mark Milligan and Mathew Leckie, suspended for the first leg, are among those expected to come in, while Tom Rogic only played a cameo role in Honduras and is also fresh.
And while Postecoglou was keeping his selection cards close to his chest, he was adamant Cahill – who hurt his ankle playing for Melbourne City 12 days ago – was fit and ready to go from the start.
— Matt Windley
READY TO GO: Tim Cahill has shaken off his ankle injury and is right for the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier with Honduras.