Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

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