Australia ready for Honduras cauldron in World Cup playoff - Postecoglou
Australia will aim to turn Honduras' biggest strength -- their fiery home support -- on its head in the opening leg of their intercontinental World Cup playoff.
The Socceroos face the nation ranked 69th in the world on Saturday morning (AEDT) in San Pedro Sula, beginning a two-match series that will send one of the teams to Russia.
It is a challenging road Australia have walked several times before, and one coach Ange Postecoglou insists his team are up for.
"We're going as hard as we can in both games and they'll have to keep up," he said.
On paper, Australia match up well with their opponents, with more overseas-based stars, more wins in qualifying and a better qualifying pedigree.
But the Socceroos face challenges -- both in their own ranks and from the opposition. The absence of Mark Milligan, Mat Leckie (suspension), Robbie Kruse (knee) and an injury to star forward Tim Cahill means Postecoglou must rejig his team for the away leg.
Australia also have a poor record in World Cup playoffs. The Socceroos are yet to win an away leg and have qualified just once from six appearances.
Then there's "La Tumba." The Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, nicknamed the tomb for its reputation of ending the careers of opposition coaches, is Honduras' best asset.
Los Catrachos have lost just four times in 25 home qualifiers over the past decade, a solid foundation they have used to reach the last two World Cups.
The 40,000-capacity stadium will be rocking for Australia's visit, but Postecoglou is not skiving away from the occasion.
"The atmosphere, it will be passionate as it should be," he said. "We know there's a big prize at stake and we're not expecting to come here and have an easy ride. Players will be looking forward to that."
Australia believe an unbeaten record in hot-weather away games -- at Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia -- so far on the road to Russia holds them in good stead.
Tom Juric, who will lead the line in San Pedro Sula, said he will relish the occasion.
"These hostile environments, I like playing in these sort of games," he said. "That will bring the best out of a lot of us. It will be key to stay focused on what we do and keep those emotions to a minimum."
Honduras will also face the same challenge in Australia.
The Central Americans' home record is impressive, but Australia boast a run of just one home qualifying loss since 1981 -- from 58 matches.
Keeping one eye on the home leg, Postecoglou said he will make Honduras work for a result ahead of the return to ANZ Stadium on Nov. 15.
"This is their chance in a two-legged tie to really use every advantage that they have in terms of the crowd, in terms of their conditions. We expect everything to be in their favour," he said. "Then we come home and we expect to get 80,000 in our stadium. For all the talk of the environment and the conditions, our home form is pretty formidable so they'll need to get something out of this game."