Russia 2018 just 90 minutes away
If the Socceroos convert their chances, we will be Russia-bound14 November 2017 | Pablo Bateson
Huge challenges including an awful pitch surface and high humidity did not stop Australia from achieving a well-deserved 0-0 draw with Honduras in the first leg of the Inter-Confederations final play off.
Although only 70 or so Aussies were there to support the Socceroos, their presence attracted plenty of media attention.
It was an unusual feeling not to be alongside my fellow fans on the terraces of the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano, and instead watch on television. However, from the frequent communications with my comrades in San Pedro Sula, the host nation treated all Australian visitors with respect, wonderful hospitality and good humour.
One frequent traveller to so many away games of the Socceroos who was greatly missed in Honduras is my friend Adam Dunbar, to whom I pay tribute here.
The return of regular captain Mile Jedinak in midfield proved a decisive factor in the game, with Australia dominating in the midfield. There were solid all-round performances by players right across the park, and Massimo Luongo had one his best games since his 2014 debut for the Socceroos.
Despite the Honduras team having much talent and experience, they did not step up to take advantage of their home conditions. It almost appeared as if they were the away side.
Looking timid and lacking ambition and confidence, the 'Los Catrachos' created only one clear cut opportunity directly on goal for a shot comfortably saved by keeper Maty Ryan late in the second half.
By contrast, the Socceroos had several wonderful chances and, but for some fine goalkeeping, a bobble of the ball at a critical moment, and some indecisive finishing an amazing away win would have been secured.
However, coach Ange Postecoglou defied the critics by getting the starting line-up and tactical approach right to reset the national team up on a path to eventual qualification. If the latter is achieved then like Josep Gombau (as reported in today's football media watch), I hope that Ange stays on to guide us next year’s finals.
There has been a significant logistical advantage for the Socceroos by taking a charter flight back home not long after the final whistle with only a short refuelling stop in Honolulu en-route to Sydney.
Fine weather conditions are expected for Wednesday evening with light to moderate winds and a temperature at the 8pm AEDT kick-off likely to be around 20 degrees.
I will be joining the Australian active support area, as part of a crowd at ANZ Stadium anticipated to be close to capacity and around 75,000 (the capacity is reduced for this match due to FIFA requirements).
The likely return of Matthew Leckie will be a bonus in attack, and Tomi Juric will relish being back at the stadium where he set up that famous winning goal at the Asian Cup final in 2015.
I am expecting our number 10, Aaron Mooy, to dominate in midfield and hopefully produce one of his trademark long range screamers relatively early in the match.
There is little doubt that if the Socceroos convert their chances they will qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup finals.
This is another opportunity for a self-fulfilling destiny to be achieved by the Socceroos. The scenario is not so different to that famous November evening 12 years ago at the same venue in a qualification play-off with Uruguay.
socceroos, world cup qualifier, honduras, #ausvhon, #roadtorussia