Away goals rule looms large for Socceroos

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    The Socceroos have had plenty of experience with World Cup playoffs, but one is looming larger than the others ahead of Wednesday night’s decider with Honduras.

    Across Australia’s six previous playoffs, only once did the Socceroos begin with an away draw.

    That was Iran in 1997, and no one in the national team camp needs reminding about how the home leg went.

    For two elder statesmen of the team – Tim Cahill and Mark Milligan – it was a formative football memory, and a tragic one at that.

    “I was just a young pup then,” Cahill said, “I remember it was a sad moment.”

    “We were a fully loaded squad then and it was heartbreaking not to qualify.”

    As they aimed to reach the 1998 tournament in France, the Socceroos took a 1-1 draw back from an away leg in Tehran with a FIFA-estimated crowd of 128,000 people.

    Goals from Harry Kewell and Aurelio Vidmar in the home leg at the MCG put one Australian foot into the World Cup, only for Iran to score two late goals through Karim Bagheri and Khodadad Azizi.

    The final result was 3-3, with Australia’s then 24-year wait to play at the World Cup lengthened by another four years due to the away goals rule.

    It’s a scenario that could play out on Wednesday night.

    The Socceroos inability to hit the back of the net means a score draw will send Honduras through on away goals.

    Milligan – who watched the Iran tie as a 12-year-old – said for that reason he didn’t see Australia as favourites to progress.

    “With the away goals (scenario), that’s why I say at the moment we’re on an even par with them coming into this match,” he said.

    “It’s still up in the air. At nil-nil coming back here no-one takes too much of an advantage from that.

    “We are doing all we can to put it in our advantage obviously with the way we prepare and way we recover and way prepare for a match.

    “We have a lot of systems in place so it is very important that we stick to that and going into Wednesday knowing it’s do or die.

    “We know our history and we know things that have happened previously but we’re paving our own path.”

    AUSTRALIA’S HISTORY OF PLAYOFFS
    2017: Honduras
    Honduras 0-0 Australia, San Pedro Sula

    2005: Uruguay
    Uruguay 1-0 Australia, Montevideo
    Australia 1-0 Uruguay, Sydney (Australia won 4-2 on penalties)

    2001: Uruguay
    Australia 1-0 Uruguay, Melbourne
    Uruguay 3-0 Australia, Montevideo (Uruguay won 3-1)

    1997: Iran
    Iran 1-1 Australia, Tehran
    Australia 2-2 Iran, Melbourne (Iran won 3-3 on away goals)

    1993: Argentina
    Australia 1-1 Argentina, Sydney
    Argentina 1-0 Australia, Buenos Aires (Argentina won 2-1)

    1985: Scotland
    Scotland 2-0 Australia, Glasgow
    Australia 0-0 Scotland, Melbourne (Scotland won 2-0)

    1969: Israel
    Israel 1-0 Australia, Tel Aviv
    Australia 1-1 Israel, Sydney (Israel won 2-1)

    © AAP 2017