Thursday 09 November 2017, 22:13

Contrasting styles mark final joust for Russia ticket

  • Australia and Honduras match-up for intercontinental play-off

  • Both nations featured at Brazil 2014

  • Both sides missing key players

Just 180 minutes – or perhaps 210 minutes – is all that separates two nations from achieving their respective football dreams.

Australia and Honduras will do battle over two legs to earn the penultimate ticket on offer to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Just four and half days – considering time difference - separate the two matches played either side of the Pacific Ocean, starting in San Pedro Sula on Friday before both nations travel to Sydney. A few hours later either Peru or New Zealand will collect the final spot on offer in the 32-nation field.

Australia are hunting an unprecedented fourth successive World Cup appearance. Honduras, for their part, are also chasing a new landmark as they chase a third consecutive World Cup berth.

The Socceroos, under coach Ange Postecoglou, have become renowned for their possession-based pro-active style. They have accrued a global-high 48 goals in their 20 matches, yet ironically it was goal difference that cost them automatic qualification from Asia’s Group B.

Honduras typically favour a more pragmatic approach, especially on the road. Until their dramatic 3-2 final-day win over Mexico, Los Catrachos had managed just ten goals in nine Hexagonal matches.

New faces making waves for Socceroos Both teams are set to be without key personnel. The Socceroos will face Honduras without at least three key players following suspensions to Mark Milligan and Matthew Leckie, while Robbie Kruse is out injured. Tim Cahill remains in doubt after being substituted last weekend after suffering an ankle sprain playing for Melbourne City, while captain Mile Jedinak has only just returned from a long-term absence.

The quintet are Australia’s most experienced in terms of caps. However, there are numerous players in form at club level with midfielder Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town), goalkeeper Mat Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion) and Bailey Wright (Bristol City) among them.

Los Catrachos veteran returns for final bow Australia may have Cahill but Honduras, as of recently, once again have Carlo Costly. The 35-year-old forward has developed a knack of finding the net on the big occasion. The veteran has been recalled to the squad following a nasty facial injury to striker Eddie Hernandez, while suspension also looms for key men Alberth Elis and Maynor Figueroa.

Players to watch Australia boasts a fine tradition of goalkeeping and Mat Ryan appears to have an increasingly steady grip on the Socceroos’ No1 jersey. A solid start between the sticks in the always-frenetic English Premier League this season at Brighton adds further impetus to Ryan’s long-term international prospects. The match in San Pedro Sula promises to be one of the most testing of Ryan’s 39-cap international journey.

Houston Dynamo-based Romell Quioto is Honduras’s leading scorer with six goals. The 26-year-old’s winner against Mexico last month - a strike which catapulted Honduras into the play-off position - will live in the memory of Los Catrachos fans.

The stat 6 – Historically Australia are veterans of intercontinental match-ups having featured in six play-offs across the last eight campaigns.

The matches Honduras-Australia, San Pedro Sula, 10 November Australia-Honduras, Sydney, 15 November