The Socceroos’ long and onerous journey to the 2018 World Cup is complete with a 3-1 victory over Honduras.
After 22 matches, two-and-a-half years and countless kilometres travelled by Ange Postecoglou’s men, it all came down to the do-or-die clash at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.
Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak was the hero, slotting a free kick into the back of the net in the 55th minute.
His strike took a huge deflection, completely wrong-footing Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober to give the Socceroos a 1-0 lead. It was later ruled an own goal.
The Socceroos’ long and onerous journey to the 2018 World Cup appears complete. Mile Jedinak celebrates with his teammates after scoring the first goal of the match
Australia have gone 2-0 up over Honduras in the do-or-die clash at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium
Australia was given the perfect opportunity to extend its lead when the referee ruled Bryan Acosta handballed in the penalty area in the 72nd minute.
Jedinak stepped up to the spot and squeezed the ball into the corner, just beyond the reach of the keeper diving to his right.
Another penalty was awarded after a blatant foul from behind by Jerry Palacios, who was lucky to get just a yellow card. Jedinak once again made no mistake from the spot.
Honduras scored a consocation goal in the last play of the game, but the Socceroos did enough to book a place in their third World Cup in 44 years.
In 2005, John Aloisi’s penalty sent Australia to the tournament for the first time in 32 years.
Australia’s Aziz Behich (left) argues with Alberth Elis of Honduras during Wednesday’s match
Socceroos fans show their support during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Josh Kennedy’s late header against Iraq in 2013 was enough to take the Socceroos to the last tournament in Brazil.
This year, Australia was all-in with Postecoglou’s all-out attacking style.
The Socceroos coach remained confident ahead of the match it would deliver the result the nation craves.
‘This has been the longest World Cup campaign taken by any nation both in the amount of games and in kilometres travelled,’ Postecoglou said.
Australian players move forward during a free kick in the first half of Wednesday night’s match
Australian fans cheer on their idols during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Leg 2 match between the Australian Socceroos and Honduras
‘You don’t want all that to mean nothing.’
Ironically, the one constant through the journey – Postecoglou himself – isn’t sure whether he’ll be there after the final whistle.
A report last month of his intended resignation sent shockwaves through the Australian soccer landscape.
Postecoglou’s future was not the main game on Wednesday night, but it’s certainly an intriguing sideshow.
More to come.