TOWN MIDFILDER HOPING TO HAVE BOOKED A PLACE AT WORLD CUP FINALS IN RUSSIA
HUDDERSFIELD Town star midfielder Aaron Mooy is aiming to have booked a place at the World Cup finals in Russia this morning.
However, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou warned his side not to allow their long journey on the road towards the 2018 World Cup to count for nothing by failing to beat Honduras in Sydney.
The Socceroos missed out on automatic qualification for next summer’s finals after finishing behind Asian Football Confederation rivals Japan and Saudi Arabia, and so went into a playoff where they ended Syria’s hopes of advancing further towards Russia.
Having secured a goalless draw from the first leg of their inter-confederation play-off against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, hopes are high Australia can now finish the job on Wednesday in order to make sure of their place at the showpiece tournament.
Postecoglou, though, knows all that work so far offers no guarantee of the final destination - just as four-times champions Italy discovered when beaten in their UEFA play-off by Sweden to miss a first World Cup since 1958.
“This has been the longest World Cup campaign taken on by any nation in terms of the amount of games and the amount of kilometres travelled,” Postecoglou said at a press conference, broadcast on the Football Federation Australia website.
“You don’t want all that to mean nothing.”
Australia should have veteran midfielder Tim Cahill available following an ankle problem, while Hertha Berlin’s Mat Leckie returns having been suspended for the first leg.
Some 70,000 fans are expected to pack the Stadium Australia, and captain Mile Jedinak is all too aware of just how important making it to Russia is for the sports-mad nation.
“This whole campaign we have touched on what it means, and I think everyone knows that,” the Aston Villa midfielder said.
“It is now just making sure we’re tuned in and making sure we are 100 per cent prepared to execute on that pitch on Wednesday night.”
Honduras, who finished fourth ahead of the United States in the CONCACAF qualifying campaign, complained of “espionage” in the build-up to the second leg, posting social media footage of an apparent drone flying above the stadium at a training session.
Coach Jorge Luis Pinto told a news conference, speaking via a translator, it was “embarrassing for such an advanced country”, adding the incident “takes some of the merit away from the fair play and the sporting event that will be held tomorrow.”
Pinto, though, knows just what to expect when the match action gets underway.
He said: “I have seen a lot of videos of the Australia team.
“Their defence is very organised and they attack a lot down the flanks.
“For this game, we will need to have a cold head, but hot blood and we will have tobe very aggressive.”