Our biggest game since this historic moment in 2005 It is now about pride in the Aussie jersey The final turn on the road to Russia Forget the issues with Ange Or even Timmy’s dodgy ankle The 0-0 draw in Honduras was a mighty effort Now the stage is all s
SOCCEROOS coach Ange Postecoglou has kept his greatest ace up his sleeve for Wednesday night’s secondleg World Cup qualifying playoff against Honduras in Sydney.
Despite the lure of what would have been a vital away goal, Postecoglou had Tim Cahill watch from the sidelines yesterday morning.
Cahill saw his teammates more than hold their own in a 0-0 draw in the first leg, despite 40,000 fans baying for their blood in a game played on a terrible surface at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula.
“In terms of Timmy, he was fine but I just didn’t think the game suited him,” Postecoglu said of Australia’s all- time top scorer, who is nursing an ankle injury sustained in the A- League.
“Looking at the pitch, I didn’t want to risk him unless we had to. Tim and Jimmy Troisi, we were only going to use them if required, and I thought we were quite comfortable so we saved them for the second game.”
The Socceroos flew out for Sydney confident in their ability to win at home and qualify for their fourth consecutive World Cup appearance, at Russia 2018. While he lamented his team’s inability to land a killer blow in Honduras yesterday, Postecoglou otherwise could not fault the fighting performance, especially after Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s prematch warning that the Australians should be ready to “go to war”.
And the Socceroos coach pushed back at a campaign to poke fun at his team, when a local newspaper described them as “11 kangaroos”.
“We had two players (Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan) who play in the (English) Premier League there, we’ve got players who play in first divisions in Europe and all I heard was that we had a simple game plan and we don’t have any stars,” Postecoglou said.
“That was our motivation. We do our talking when the game comes.”
Postecoglou made a whopping eight changes to the side that started in last month’s successful second-leg play-off against Syria.
In came defender Bailey Wright, wing-backs Aziz Behich and Josh Risdon, midfielders Mile Jedinak, Massimo Luongo, Mooy and Jackson Irvine and striker Tomi Juric.
Out went Cahill, Troisi, suspended pair Mark Milligan and Mathew Leckie, injured duo Robbie Kruse and Brad Smith, midfielder Tom Rogic and defender Milos Degenek.
Luongo and returning skipper Jedinak were among Australia’s best in a game in which a host of players stood
tall. There was drama in the 16th minute when advancing Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober knocked over Socceroos defender Wright.
Referee Daniele Orsato pointed ed to the penalty spot, but his assistant put his flag up. The pair then consulted, and Orsato changed his mind and awarded Honduras what was thought ought to be a free-kick for offside.
But Postecoglou was left scrathing his head when Orsato told him a goal kick had been awarded.
The Socceroos continued to o attack, and Juric had the best chance ce of the game in the 34th minute after r getting behind the Honduran defence. ce.
But, with only Escober to beat, Juric dragged his shot wide.
While the ball bobbled on the bumpy surface as Juric was about to shoot, he still should have been able to hit the target.
“It terms of chances it wasn’t just Tomi Juric’s chances,” Postecoglu said. “We had some good opportunities to put them away.
“Tomi Juric again put in an enormous shift. He works really hard for us ... overall I thought his performance was good.”
Australia's Mile Jedinak competestes with Anthony Lozano, (right) Tomi Juric and (above) Honduras keeper Donis Escober makes a save. Pictures: AP