Australia v Honduras
Wednesday November 15, 8:00pm AEDT
Australia will be the happier team of the two after leaving San Pedro Sula with a 0-0 draw. The result could have been much better for the Socceroos who enjoyed the better of the encounter, with Striker Tomi Juric spurring two gettable chances in front of goal.
Ange Postecoglou has teased at some big team changes ahead of the second leg with Tim Cahill set to feature after seeing no game time on Saturday. Whether he makes the starting XI or comes off the bench remains to be seen. Mark Milligan and Mathew Leckie are certain to return to the starting team after missing last week due to suspension. Robbie Kruse is in line for an appearance after recovering from a knee injury while Tom Rogic is expected to see more game time after a short cameo run off last Saturday.
Honduras head to Sydney knowing they only need one goal to qualify for Russia 2018 after their goalless draw at home. The away goal rule now plays to their favour as after Australia failed to find the net in the first leg. Honduras struggled to adapt to their own home deck last week as the cow paddock that was the Estadio Olimpico worked against their game plan. An improved ANZ Stadium turf will no doubt be more conducive to their counter-attack plan.
The visitors welcome back Maynor Figueroa and Alberth Elis from suspension and head into this one with no major injury concerns. Much has been made of Honduras’ journey from San Pedro Sula to Sydney, flying on a commercial flight to Australia arriving some 24 hours later than their opponents. The impact of the disparity in flying conditions will be found out on Wednesday night.
Australia head into Wednesday night as favourites for the match and to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals. Saturday was an impressive showing from a team that has struggled away from home in recent times. However, failing to land that all-important away goal still gives Honduras a flicker of hope to snatch a surprise result.
The names returning to the team sheet give the Socceroos a massive boost, particularly Leckie and Cahill whose attacking flair was desperately missed in the first leg. Combine those two with Rogic who we will see more of on Wednesday after a brief sighting in the opener then Australia already look stronger.
One can only imagine Honduras will show more in attack than they did in their home tie. They sat back and tried to punch on the counter and any move was thwarted by an improved Australia defence and a patchy track. Even with an improved performance from the visitors Australia should be able to deal with any counter threat.
These playoff games are always tense affairs and hardly ever make for great viewing for the neutral. With it all on the line in front of a home crowd expect the Socceroos to build on that encouraging performance in the first leg and do just enough to book a ticket for Russia 2018.