THE Socceroos were motivated by a lack of respect shown towards them as Australia’s hopes of a fourth successive World Cup appearance remained alive and kicking with a gutsy display in Honduras.
Despite 40,000 fans baying for their blood in a game played in muggy conditions and on a terrible playing surface, the Socceroos more than held their own in their 0-0 draw against Honduras.
While they couldn’t find a valuable away goal, the Socceroos return to Sydney for Wednesday night’s second leg of the World Cup qualifying playoff confident in their ability to win and secure a spot at Russia 2018.
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Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou lamented Australia’s failure to land the killer blow, but he otherwise couldn’t fault their display after producing the fighting performance required following Honduran coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s pre-match warning to the Australians to be ready to go to “war”.
Pinto’s salvo came after a week of goodwill between the two nations after Hondurans had objected to their nation being degraded and ridiculed in Australia.
Postecoglou again apologised for that, but he also took aim at what he thought was a local campaign to poke fun at the Socceroos, including the front page of a newspaper on the day of the game that described Australia as “11 kangaroos”.
“There was some comments from our team coming from the other side that were disrespectful as well,” he said.
“We had two players (Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan) who play in the Premier League there, we’ve got players who play in first divisions in Europe and all I heard was that we had a simple game plan and we don’t have any stars.
“That was our motivation. We do our talking when the game comes.”
Despite the lure of what would have been a vital away goal, Postecoglou elected against using the ace up his sleeve in Tim Cahill, who watched the entire match from the bench a week after injuring his ankle in the A-League.
“In terms of Timmy he was fine, but I just didn’t think the game suited him. Looking at the pitch, I didn’t want to risk him unless we had to,” Postecoglou said.
“Tim and Jimmy Troisi, we were only going to use them if required, and I thought we were quite comfortable, so we saved them for the second game.’
Postecoglou made a whopping eight changes to the side that started in last month’s successful second-leg playoff clash against Syria.
In came defender Bailey Wright, wing-backs Aziz Behich and Josh Risdon, midfielders Mile Jedinak, Massimo Luongo,, Aaron Mooy and Jackson Irvine, and striker Tomi Juric.
Out went Cahill, Troisi, suspended pair Mark Milligan and Mathew Leckie, injured duo Robbie Kruse and Brad Smith, midfielder Tom Rogic and defender Milos Degenek.
Luongo and returning skipper Jedinak were among Australia’s best on a night were a host of players stood tall for their nation.
There was drama in the 16th minute when advancing Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober knocked over Socceroos defender Wright.
Referee Daniele Orsato pointed to the penalty spot, but his assistant put his flag up.
The pair then consulted, with Orsato changing his mind and awarding Honduras what was thought to be a free-kick for offside.
But Postecoglou left scratching his head when Orsato told him a goal kick had been awarded.
The Socceroos continued to attack, with Juric having the best chance of the game in the 34th minute after getting behind the Honduran defence.
But with only Escober to beat, Juric dragged his shot wide.
‘Anything can happen’1:29
Football: Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury reflects on his sides 0-0 draw with Honduras in the first leg of their World Cup qualifier.
While the ball bobbled on the bumpy surface as Juric was about to shoot, he still should have been able at the very least hit the target.
“It terms of chances it wasn’t just Tomi Juric’s chances. We had some good opportunities to put them away,” Postecoglou said.
“Tomi Juric again put in an enormous shift. He works really hard for us ,,, overall I thought his performance was good.”