Honduran challenge to rival Montevideo
The similarities with 2005 are obvious - and Pablo hopes the outcome is the same10 November 2017 | Pablo Bateson
The circumstances facing the Socceroos in the first away leg of the Inter-Confederations final play off v Honduras are almost as challenging as the intimidating environment experienced in Montevideo during mid-November 2005.
Despite some portrayals by our mainstream media, the reception for our squad, officials and travelling supporters alike has been generally positive, enthusiastic and welcoming.
Special mention and recognition goes to the many intrepid Aussie supporters who have travelled up to 14,000 kilometres and up to 35 hours from Australia, Europe and other parts of the world for the game in San Pedro Sula.
Les Street has become an expert in documenting football stadia around the world as part of his ongoing research. Leading the Green and Gold Army tour group is Kevin Pollard who along with my football comrade Al Nocera has featured in coverage by Honduran media.
Others there include close friend Ray Fuggle from Sydney who had previously shared with me many Socceroos away trips for qualifiers since 2008.
It is likely that up to 200 fans will be in the Australian away section.
I know first-hand the type of unique Aussie camaraderie that will bond all of our supporters for such an intense setting. All the best to everyone in Central America in singing your hearts out as the important '12th man' of our Socceroos.
Because of my recent lifestyle changes and changing priorities now that I am based in Thailand, I did not commit to the away trip in Honduras. Instead, on Thursday I flew from Bangkok directly to Sydney ahead of being at the return second leg on 15 November. I will be watching on television at my second home in Katoomba of the Blue Mountains on Saturday morning to witness another unfolding drama.
To complement the free-to-air TV coverage in Australia, it is welcome relief for Socceroos fans that live commentary on radio is being offered. The new FNR Radio with 24 hour/7 days dedicated football coverage has gained permission from the main rights holder Fox Sports to make the commentary available to listeners via the internet and apps for Android and iPhone. I previously highlighted this deficiency as a missed opportunity to broadcast online to expats and other football fans across Asia and elsewhere in the world.
The non-availability of several key players including Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse (injury concerns) and Mark Milligan (suspension) is offset by the return of regular captain Mile Jedinak in midfield and Bailey Wright back into the squad to provide greater depth in defence if required. Tim Cahill appears to have recovered from an ankle injury scare at his most recent appearance for Melbourne City to take his place in the squad.
The Honduras team is stacked with talent and experience, including striker Anthony 'Choco' Lozano, and winger Romell Quioto who plays in the MLS with Houston.
Much has been offered by our media about the heat and humidity especially with a mid-afternoon kick off on Friday. It is likely to be around 28 degrees with high humidity and possibility of showers at the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano.
I am confident that the preparation will overcome such conditions, remembering that last year Australia beat UAE at Abu Dhabi in even more challenging weather. Having the return leg at home is a significant advantage, and a charter flight back to Sydney not long after the final whistle will help the players enormously in their rest and recovery.
I do not like making predictions. A satisfactory result would be avoiding defeat while scoring at least one precious away goal. Anything better will be a huge bonus.
Millions of Australians will be hoping that the Socceroos take another step towards Russia 2018 qualification.
Main picture: Tobias Ortner (left) and Kevin Pollard (right) with local fans at the market
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