Israel ’69, South Korea ’73, Scotland ’85, Argentina ’93, Iran ’97, Uruguay ’01 and ’05. And now Honduras ’17.
It’s just like the old days, isn’t it? A cut-throat play-off for a World Cup berth. Some 90 bum-clenching minutes (at least) of football in which a poor collective performance, a slice of bad luck, a drop in concentration, the dagger-thrust of a late winner, or, Zeus forbid, a miscued penalty, could not only knock the Socceroos out of World Cup reckoning and Australian football fans into the doldrums but also wake from its dormancy yet another existential crisis in Australian football.
Brilliant, isn’t it? Makes you feel alive.
Evening, everyone, and thanks for joining me for tonight’s World Cup second-leg qualifier between Australia and Honduras. As you’re no doubt aware (but it behoves me to cross my t’s and dot my lower-case j’s) the first leg, held on Saturday morning AEDT in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, finished 0-0 despite a dominant performance by the Australians.
Indeed it was one of their best performances in recent times – marred though it was by the Socceroos’ continued inability to convert dominance into goals. (Well, ‘marred’ if you were backing the Australians, that is. Honduras fans tuning in to this blog – who would have been delighted with Australia’s missed chances on Saturday – will forgive me for playing to my main audience.)
Saturday’s result means that a win of any margin in Sydney tonight will send the victor to Russia for next year’s tournament. Due to the away goals rule, however, any score draw will see Honduras qualify at Australia’s expense. The remaining scenario, a 0-0 draw after extra-time, would send the game to penalties — a prospect most of us, I’d venture, would rather not have to endure.
As we await kick-off let me take this moment to remind you that your correspondence is welcome. So if you’ve a mind, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a Tweet (@PFConnolly). The F, in case you’re wondering, doesn’t stand for what might first come to mind. That being Fabio, I’d guess.
Anyway, I’m rambling. Start getting yourselves organised. Not long now.
Kick-off: 8pm AEDT