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Australia’s coach Ange Postecoglou made a bold choice to start Tim Cahill up front as striker instead of Tomi Juric amidst doubts about the former’s fitness at the beginning of his A-League season campaign. However, 'Super Tim' delivered superbly as only he can do.

The Socceroos eventually overcame a resilient Syrian side to win 3-2 on aggregate.  It was a long way short of being an emphatic performance over the two legs, and instead is better characterised as a task well done.

Our national team has progressed to the Inter-Confederations final play off versus the Honduras, the fourth placed side from the CONCACAF group. 

In a new experience I joined other expats at 'The Australian' pub sports bar in central Bangkok to cheer on Australia live on television at 4pm local time.

Although there was live free to air television coverage in Australia, it was baffling that no radio live commentary was offered. Surely, FFA must lift its game and ensure such a service is offered for all home games of the Socceroos and Matildas, just as it is for the A-League matches.

It was also a missed opportunity to broadcast online to expats and other football fans across Asia and elsewhere in the world. While commercial media rights for Asian tournaments and qualifiers are controlled by the AFC, it needs FFA to facilitate an arrangement that meets the demands and interest of fans and followers.

From my perspective, it was a disappointing crowd of just over 42,000 who witnessed a tense encounter, which delivered on high excitement rather than producing highest quality international football.

A large group of colourful, passionate and vocal Syrian ‘active supporters’ appeared to dominate the western end of the stadium.

The first half was only six minutes old when a swift counter culminated in Omar Al Somah firing in a shot from short range on the left.

From that point on the match was dominated by Australia and on 13 minutes they stretched the visitor’s defence to enable Matthew Leckie to cross from the right wing. This found Cahill in space to head in for an equaliser.

The Qasioun Eagles seemed mostly content absorb the pressure and then mount the occasional counter attack. In contrast to five days earlier, their clear-cut chances were few and far between with Aussie keeper Mat Ryan rarely tested.

Although the Socceroos had about three quarters of possession they lacked the necessary finishing touch again until very late in the game.

With the game going into extra time, another major turning point was a second yellow card for Mahmoud Al Mawas and given his marching orders.

With the extra man advantage, on 109 minutes was left to Robbie Kruse to chip in a delicately weighted cross from the left. This set up Cahill who rose high again to launch a powerful header inside the left hand upright for a goal.

In the last two minutes of extra time good fortune favoured the hosts when a direct free kick from Al Somah just outside the box hit the post and deflected safely away.

After the final whistle the main emotions were more of much relief than great joy for most home fans.

Despite the resilience of Syria, over the two legs they were not quite good enough to match and overcome the reigning Asian champions.

With the Socceroos completing their immediate task, we had to wait until well into the following morning to see who would join them in the play-off. In a major shock which had almost everybody stunned, the USA failed to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1986 and Honduras won the right to meet Australia.

There is no doubt that the Socceroos will have to improve significantly if they are to secure qualification for Russia 2018.

I would appear that Postecoglou may well step down as coach immediately following the two legs play-off on 9 and 14 November. He has been under increasingly intense pressure and faced many criticisms over the past couple of months with a series of underwhelming results in the latter part of the group qualification phase.

This comes at a time when stability for the squad is needed as we move towards the final play off stage.

Because of my recent lifestyle changes and evolving personal priorities now based in Thailand, I am yet to make the decision about committing to an away trip in Honduras. However, the national interest of our football is an important motivational factor in our quest for a fourth successive World Cup finals participation.

Another major challenge facing the squad and any intrepid supporters is the logistics of travel and security in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

The implications of such a potentially hostile environment for football have been written about here by Sebastian Hassett, and also feature in this publication's Football Media Watch for 12 October. 

The Central Americans have qualified for the past two World Cup finals as well as Spain '82. In the 2014 World Cup, they lost each of their three games in a group that included France, Ecuador and Switzerland. In 2010, they lost to Chile and eventual winners, Spain, and drew with Switzerland.

Stay tuned on a rollercoaster ride of football drama and unique experiences for players, travelling fans and officials alike.


Categories: Opinion | Socceroos

socceroos, world cup qualifier, #ausvsyr, tim cahill, ange postecoglou, honduras, #roadtorussia

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