Socceroos vs Honduras: World Cup qualifier preview and prediction

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    The Socceroos will be heavy favourites to qualify for their fourth straight FIFA World Cup when they host Honduras in the second leg of their inter-confederation play-off at Homebush.

    After a 0-0 draw during the first leg, played in San Pedro Sula, the Aussie equation couldn’t be clearer. Win and you’re through. A scoring draw or a loss and you’re out.

    A scoreless draw and, just like in 2005, we will be forced to sit through a nail-biting half-hour of extra time with a possible penalty shootout.

    Everything is pointing in the favour of Australia though, who should be able to get it done in regulation time, booking their place at the World Cup in 2018.

    Of the last 59 World Cup qualifiers Australia have played at home, dating back to the early 1980s, there has been just one loss. That came during the 2010 campaign, after the green and golds had already qualified under Pim Verbeek, playing with a second string XI against China.

    The Olympic Stadium in Sydney has become the field of dreams though. While 2005 has already been mentioned – and seriously, you must have lived under a rock for the last decade if you don’t know what I’m talking about – the 2014 qualification campaign was also wrapped up in Sydney with a winner from Josh Kennedy.

    John Aloisi celebrates scoring his penalty against Uruguay

    AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    It’s not just the home advantage though. Australia dominated the first leg in San Pedro Sula, despite coming away with nothing to show for it.

    The Socceroos had 53 per cent possession, more shots at goal, four corners, and passing accuracy of 78 per cent – an excellent stat given the condition of the ground. They constantly poked holes in the Honduran defence, but were unable to finish.

    It’s been a consistent problem for Ange Postecoglou’s men. Right from the early days, through to the final match against Thailand – when they had more than 20 shots and nothing to show for it, despite needing to go for the kill – the lack of finishing power has caused headaches.

    Their issues in front of goals, as well as that of their formation at the back, are why they find themselves in the play-off – why they only just scraped past Syria. In fact, the Aussies were just one free kick and a few millimetres from being eliminated at the end of extra time against Syria.

    In short, the Socceroos have lived this qualification campaign on the edge, but now need to find a way to bring everything together for 90 minutes and get past Honduras – likely with Tim Cahill back on the field. He sat on the bench, nursing his ankle, in the first leg, but is due back this time around.

    Massimo Luongo and Mile Jedinak were enormous for the Socceroos in that match, with their attacking edge through the middle of the park adding an extra boost.

    It wouldn’t be a surprise to see fellow mid-fielder Aaron Mooy come from the bench in this second leg though. Despite being one of, if not the best, he looked tired during the second half.

    Honduras were far from poor at home. On a pitch which didn’t help either team, they were able to constantly go long in a hurry. Catching the Socceroos much-maligned back three off guard though seemed to be easier said than done.

    The hosts only had one shot on target all match, with that coming at the back end through veteran substitute Carlo Costly.

    For those unversed in the Honduran setup, Costly is the opposition’s Cahill. He has more than 70 international caps, 30 goals and is going to be a key man given he will be expected to start rather than try to cause impact at the end of the game.

    For Honduras, it’s all about getting an early goal. They need to start well and apply the blowtorch to Australia, rather than hang back and trying to forge penalties out of a 120-minute draw.

    The Socceroos should come out all guns firing, and the Hondurans have every chance of running away on the counter-attack if Australia get it wrong – something they have done time and time again during qualification.

    Houston Dynamo player Romell Quioto was also dangerous at different points during the first leg, and will need to be strong up front again, controlling the ball better on the ANZ Stadium turf.

    Prediction
    Honduras are outsiders for a reason, but while it’s impossible to write off the Central Americans, Australia should get it done in regulation with a couple of goals.

    The biggest danger is their defence letting one in, but even on the friendlier Homebush turf, the Socceroos should defend their lines and book a spot in Russia next year.

    Australia 2-0 Honduras

    Game information: Australia vs Honduras

    Kick-off: 8pm (AEDT)
    Venue: ANZ Stadium, Homebush, Sydney
    TV: Live, Fox Sports 501 and Channel Nine
    Online: Live, Foxtel app or Foxtel now
    Betting: Australia $1.61, Honduras $6, draw $3.60
    Referee: Néstor Pitana

    First leg: Honduras 0 – Socceroos 0 (0-0 agg.) at San Predro Sula, Honduras

    Socceroos (squad)
    Aziz Behich, Tim Cahill, Milos Degenek, Alex Gersbach, Craig Goodwin, Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, James Jeggo, Tomi Juric, Matthew Jurman, Robbie Kruse, Mithcell Langerak, Mathew Leckie, Massimo Luongo, Ryan McGowan, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Josh Risdon, Tom Rogic, Nikita Rukavytya, Mathew Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, James Trois, Daniel Vukovic, Bailey Wright

    Honduras (squad)
    Ricardo Canales, Donis Escober, Ever Alvarado, Bryan Beckeles, Felix Crisanto, Henry Figueroa, Maynor Figueroa, Emilio Izaguirre, Johnny Palacios, Carlos Sanchez, Allans Vargas, Bryan Acosta, Michael Chirinos, Jorge Claros, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Alexander Lopez, Mario Martinez, Alfredo Mejia, Oliver Morazan, Sergio Peña, Carlo Costly, Alberth Elis, Ovidio Lanza, Antony Lozano, Romell

    Don’t forget The Roar will be covering the game with a live blog and highlights.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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