Socceroos' fighting spirit holds key in Honduras play-off

Little seems to be going right for the Socceroos as the do-or-die 2018 FIFA World Cup play-off against Honduras approaches fast.

Socceroos FIFA World Cup

Australia take on Honduras for a place at next year's World Cup Source: AAP

Let's face it, the Hondurans will be tough nuts to crack, particularly in the first leg in San Pedro Sula on Saturday morning (AEDT).

And the Socceroos' preparation for their double date with destiny has been far from ideal.

The weeks leading up to this intercontinental decider have been as smooth as the waters of Botany Bay in a wild storm.

Australia must live with the fact they have only themselves to blame for being in this football version of Russian roulette after losing their way midway through the qualification campaign and missing out on direct access.

It's like booking a family holiday and finding out at the last minute that your leave has been cancelled.

They also have had to deal with the shock of learning that their coach is leaning towards abandoning ship should they qualify for the finals and the uncertainty his refusal to confirm or deny reports has caused.

The Socceroos also know that they will have to face the Hondurans at the Metropolitano without key men Mark Milligan of Melbourne Victory and Hertha Berlin's Mathew Leckie, who are both suspended for one match.

Talismanic striker Tim Cahill, who rolled his right ankle in the weekend A-League clash between Melbourne City and Sydney FC, will travel to Central America on Monday but his presence in the first leg is doubtful. He should be right for the return in Sydney on November 15.

Leckie is battling a thigh problem while Bochum's Robbie Kruse is also injured (knee) and won't make the trip to Honduras. Kruse and Leckie are both touch and go for the return leg.

It's not looking very good but Australian sportsmen and women are not known as born fighters for nothing.

The Socceroos are up against it but they should prevail and book their ticket to Russia because Ange Postecoglou's men have proved on many occasions that they are mentally strong - in the best Aussie tradition - and will cope with whatever the crafty Hondurans throw at them.

In football - and in any other sphere of life for that matter - nothing usually beats a fighting temperament and a fierce determination to overcome adversity.

The intrepid Socceroos proved they have these qualities in abundance after surviving dodgy pitches, inhumane playing conditions, never-ending flights across the world and domestic doubts and scepticism to get to this point of qualification.

Ever since they took part in their first World Cup in West Germany in 1974, the Socceroos have occasionally surprised us with uplifting performances against all the odds and Postecoglou's men are no exception.
Who would have expected Australia to give the Netherlands such a good run for their money at the 2014 World Cup before undeservedly losing 3-2 in Porto Alegre?

Who would have imagined that the Socceroos be only minutes away from beating world champions Germany in their own backyard before drawing 2-2 in Kaiserslautern in 2015?

And who would have thought that Postecoglou's men play better and more cohesively than South American champions Chile at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and be forced to settle for a 1-1 draw in Moscow only five months ago?

The reason is clear: these were by no means fluke displays because the Socceroos love nothing more than to lift for the big occasion and prove critics wrong.

They seem to reserve their best when the chips are down and they are given no chance.

The two-leg play-off with Honduras provides them with another opportunity to boost their worldwide reputation of a bunch of brave battlers who will fight until they drop.

So we should have faith in this Australian side because when the going gets tough they rarely let us down despite their limitations.

The team in green and gold have their technical and tactical weaknesses and the fans sometimes had every right to vent their disapproval of the way the Socceroos went about their business, particularly against some of Asia's lesser teams.

But all the players bar none are very proud and would love nothing more than be told they have no chance of qualifying.

The thousands of fans who as usual will be behind the Socceroos in their hour of need cannot guarantee success but they know that their team will give everything and not let them down.

Go Australia, let's do this.

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4 min read
Published 5 November 2017 at 11:09am
By Philip Micallef