Talking points from the Socceroos’ draw against Honduras

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AUSTRALIA leaves Honduras after a satisfying 0-0 draw against the home side on Saturday morning (AEDT).

The Socceroos faced a vocal crowd in a hostile environment in the first leg of their two-match World Cup qualifying tie, but they passed the test in front of them with flying colours.

The result sets the Aussies up nicely for the return leg in Sydney on Wednesday night where they will hope to officially book their spot at the sport’s biggest event in Russia next year.

Here are all the talking points from Saturday’s match.

‘DISRESPECTFUL’ SLEDGES SPARK WAR

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou returned fire in the post-match press conference after local media had sledged his players on the morning of the game.

A San Pedro Sula newspaper ran with a front page on Saturday (AEDT) calling Postecoglou’s troops “kangaroos” and declaring they were in a fight against an entire country.

Postecoglou had a one-liner of his own when asked if he expected Honduras to “be so easy”.

“Maybe you thought we were going to be easy,” he said.

“I saw the newspaper today, it had 11 kangaroos out there but kangaroos can play football, huh?”

The Central Americans painted the tie as “Operation Cangeru” and labelled Australia a simple team.

Earlier, hosts of Channel 10 program The Project Waleed Aly and Peter Helliar pointed out the match was being held in the “murder capital of the world” and likened the encounter to a game with ISIS, sparking outrage in Honduras.

Postecoglou acknowledged the wrongs but defended his team, saying the barbs coming from Honduras’s media only fired the Socceroos up more.

“When we got here, some people made some comments about the country and Honduras and that was wrong and we apologise for that,” he said.

“I also think there were some comments about our team coming from the other side that were disrespectful.

“We had two players that play in the (English) Premier League out there (Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan). They play in first divisions in Europe and all I heard is we have a simple game plan and we don’t have any stars.

“That was our motivation. We do our talking when the game starts.

“We’re expecting a tough game in the second game. We always respect our opponents. And we’ll be ready.”

with AAP

UNFORGIVABLE SIN HAUNTS AUSSIES

Tomi Juric blew a golden chance.

Tomi Juric blew a golden chance.Source:AFP

Australia’s inability to finish in front of goal — the worrying trait that sees it in the position to play off for a World Cup berth in the first place — continued in San Pedro Sula.

Plenty of football fans Down Under have complained about the Socceroos even being in a do-or-die situation to make the 2018 tournament in Russia, saying we should have qualified automatically by performing better in the Asian confederation.

But the sorry tale of Ange Postecoglou and Co’s qualifying campaign once again reared its ugly head as the shortcoming that has dragged Australian football into nailbiting territory not seen since 2005 against Uruguay was plain for all to see.

No Australian will be unhappy with the 0-0 draw — but the result could have been so much better had the men in gold converted their chances.

The visitors dominated possession but lacked the necessary killer instinct in front of goal.

Midfielder Massimo Luongo had two clear attempts on goal and — while on target — they lacked the necessary power to trouble goalkeeper Donis Escober. His first half strike off his left foot was parried away and Escober smothered the 25-year-old’s effort from the top of the area early in the second half.

Striker Tomi Juric had a couple of golden chances but failed to find the back of the net. A lovely first-time flick put him in space behind the Honduras line after half-an-hour but he butchered the one-on-one opportunity when his shot went wide.

He had a chance to redeem himself shortly after the break but Escober tipped his header — off the back of an excellent Josh Risdon cross — over the crossbar.

Massimo Luongo couldn’t find the back of the net.

Massimo Luongo couldn’t find the back of the net.Source:AP

Then on the hour mark the Aussies frustrated the entire nation again when Risdon — who made another quality run down the right — this time failed to find the mark with his delivery into the box. His ball went just behind the unmarked Juric and Aziz Behich, who would have had an easy tap-in a metre out from the line.

These misses were the only blights in an otherwise stellar performance from the Aussies. In hostile conditions with a vocal home crowd baying for blood, the Socceroos stood tall to give themselves every chance of booking their plane tickets to Russia next year.

They controlled the entire match while Honduras relied predominantly on opportunistic counter-attacks to impact the scoreboard — an approach that didn’t pay dividends.

The Socceroos head to Sydney on Wednesday for the second leg full of confidence, knowing a similar performance — with some added polish in front of goal — will surely be enough to win through to the World Cup.

But without that polish Australia’s dream may turn to despair.

“We didn’t take our chances,” former Socceroo Archie Thompson told Fox Sports. “We could have been cruising into this game (in Sydney) with a 2-0 lead.

“You’ve got to take your chances.

“We create enough chances, we just don’t take them. That’s been (the story of) our qualification.

“These are the opportunities we need to see hitting the back of the net.”

Ex-Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich agreed.

“Super performance — the only thing missing was goals,” he said.

‘DISGRACEFUL’ ASPECT OF HONDURAS CLASH

The only excuse the Aussies can use for their poor finishing could be the state of the pitch at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, which was a world away from what the Socceroos will experience at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.

Juric’s first missed chance looked to be hampered by an unfortunate bobble and there were plenty of strange bounces as divets and bumps on the surface prevented either side from playing free-flowing football.

The pitch certainly had Australian fans riled up, with many comparing it to a heavy racetrack more suited to Winx than the nation’s premier footballers.

But as much as the pitch frustrated those hoping Australia’s extra class would result in a win, former international goalkeeper Clint Bolton defended the surface dished up for the clash. He said Honduras would benefit more from the “paddock” so, as the home side, was entitled to make sure conditions were in its favour

WHAT NOW FOR THE SOCCEROOS?

Australia’s World Cup hopes hinge on what happens in Sydney on Wednesday night when the two sides clash again in the second leg of their qualifying tie.

A win will see Australia advance to Russia next year while a loss will mean they need to watch the showpiece tournament from afar. In either of these instances, the winning or losing margin is irrelevant.

Honduras will qualify if the match ends in a draw with any scoreline other than 0-0 (that is, 1-1, 2-2 etc). This is because Honduras will have scored more away goals.

Another 0-0 draw after 90 minutes will see the match move into extra time, and if there are no goals after 120 minutes, the result will be decided by a penalty shootout, just like it was against Uruguay in 2005.

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