A 0-0 draw in the first leg in Honduras leaves the second leg of this World Cup Qualifier wide open for both teams. Here’s what you need to know ahead of one of the biggest matches in Socceroo history.
3 things we learned in the first leg in Honduras
1. Expect the pace of the game to be quicker
There are farmers in rural Australia who would’ve looked out into their paddocks on Saturday morning and thought to themselves ‘wow I never realised my backyard was good enough to play a World Cup Qualifier’.
Honduras served up a horrible pitch with tufts of grass lifting under heavy contact that allowed the Socceroos to defend astutely and get a valuable away draw.
The Stadium Australia curator has no reason to stress…short of building a swimming pool in the penalty box this game is guaranteed to be played on a better pitch.
2. Honduras did themselves no favours in the first leg
The slow pitch worked in the Socceroo’s favour because as the tempo of the game slowed they were able to make calmer defensive decisions. Australia has been susceptible to the counter attack but in the first leg the ball slowed down so much that it made it almost impossible for the strikers to get any pace on the ball
3. Both teams are more likely to score in the second leg
Someone ultimately needs to win this match and both teams will desperately want to avoid penalties. Honduras can afford to let the Socceroo’s play their cards early because they know that even a single goal will make it very difficult for the Australians to qualify for the World Cup. Honduras looked vulnerable in defence in the first leg and on a better pitch we think Australia would have score.
2 things Australia need to do to win
1. Control the game early
The Socceroos are in a precarious position in the second leg. At best they need to win and at worst they need to draw 0-0 again and go to penalties. If Honduras can score and the match is a draw at the end of 90 minutes they will qualify for the World Cup on away goals.
Based on the performances of the teams in the first leg if Australia can control the match early they should be able to break the Hondurans down at least once in this match. But a momentary lapse in concentration could spell disaster.
2. Penalties not the worst option for the Socceroos
If the game is not opening up then a defensive effort by the Socceroos could still send them to Russia.
Matt Ryan has already shown in the EPL that he knows how to save a penalty this season. If the match goes to a shoot-out we favour Australia to win based on the fact that whilst both teams have good strikers Ryan is a superior keeper to Escobar and more likely to make a save.
2 things Honduras need to do to win
1. Generate some chances in attack
We expected Honduras to show some attacking flair in the first leg based on their performance to progress against Mexico (3-2). Romell Quito and substitutes Costly and Chirinos created the best opportunities and we think all forwards and strikers will benefit from a quicker pitch.
2. Defence remains a big concern
The Socceroos didn’t exactly lock the Hondurans inside their own half in the first leg but they did enough to suggest that at home they will be the team more likely to score. Defensively Honduras just didn’t seem confident and the performances of Claros, Palacios and Beckeles were pretty poor considering the scale of the match in their own country.
Will Tim Cahill play?
We think that Cahill will play a role in this match if the Socceroos haven’t scored within 70 minutes or earlier if Honduras goes ahead. His ankle will have had extensive rehab since he was injured against Sydney FC. Another big variable is the quality of balls into the box. Aaron Mooy’s delivery became poorer as the match progressed.
The first 15 minutes is crucial for both teams and we suspect that with both not wanting to concede it may go into half-time 0-0. Then there is a big decision to be made…do you go for the win or defend and wait for a mistake to hit on the counter. Fatigue will come into the match after half-time and this should favour the Socceroos. Substitutes will be absolutely crucial with the Honduran bench looking dangerous in the first leg.
A flurry of late goals should see a result of 1-1 or 2-1 in favour of the Socceroos.
BEST BETS: Total goals over 2.5 ($2.32), Australia ($1.52), Anytime goalscorer – Tomi Juric ($1.96)
— Caltex Socceroos (@Socceroos) November 15, 2017
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