San Pedro Sula (Honduras) (AFP) – Tim Cahill is poised to give Australia a massive World Cup boost after being declared available for the Socceroos crucial 2018 World Cup playoff with Honduras here Friday.
Record scorer Cahill has been touch-and-go for the Asia-CONCACAF first leg tie after twisting an ankle a week ago in Melbourne City’s A-League game with Sydney FC.
The 37-year-old talisman made the gruelling journey to San Pedro Sula with his right ankle in a compression boot and an ice machine on board to treat the knock.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said on Thursday that although he would not name his team until the day of the game, Cahill was available for selection.
“Tim Cahill will train today and we’ll make a decision about the team tomorrow,” Postecoglou told a press conference. “All the players are fit and ready to go.”
Postecoglou said the fact that Cahill was in a position to make himself available was testimony to his professionalism.
“He’s not Superman — but he’s very professional,” Postecoglou said.
“A lot of it just his mindset. From the moment it happened and he knew it was nothing major in terms of damage, he was dead-set on coming here and making himself available for the game.”
Postecoglou said advice from the Socceroos medical staff had also reassured him.
“All the information I was getting from the medical team was that he would be available tomorrow,” he said. “He did everything right from the moment he was injured and now he’s available again.”
Postecoglou meanwhile got his first look of the playing surface at San Pedro Sula’s Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano on Thursday, and was less than impressed with what he discovered.
“The pitch is not in great condition,” he said. “It’s a little bit bumpy and a little bit soft. But we’ll prepare for that, and we understand that it’s going to be hard to play the kind of football we want to play and we’ll adjust to that.”
– Game ‘to the death’ –
The Australia coach meanwhile said his team would be unfazed by what is expected to be a bearpit-like atmosphere at the Metropolitano, where all 39,000 tickets that went on sale have been sold.
“It’s a big game and every time you play a big game, particularly away from home, the home fans will be passionate behind their team,” Postecoglou said.
“But it’s nothing we haven’t faced before. We’re expecting a tense atmosphere and a passionate home crowd and that’s the way it should be because we’re both playing for a World Cup spot.”
Australia advanced to the Honduras clash after winning a two-leg Asian playoff against Syria last month.
Postecoglou said his team would take an aggressive approach on Friday in an attempt to take an advantage back to Sydney for next Wednesday’s second leg.
“We’ll try and win, we’ll be aggressive,” he said. “Whatever happens tomorrow it’s only half-time. But we want to go back to Australia hopefully with a positive result.”
Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto meanwhile said that while he was happy Australia’s players had been treated well since arriving in the country, Friday’s contest would be a “game to the death.”
“Outside (the stadium), we hug each other, we’re friends, we’re football guys, we go up and say ‘Hi.’,” the Colombian said.
“God wants them to be treated well (in Honduras) and they’re telling us they’re being treated well … But in the field, it’s to the death.”
Pinto said Honduras, who squeezed into the playoff place ahead of the United States after a dramatic defeat of Mexico last month, would aim to strike a balance between attack and defence.
“I don’t want to go crazy like Brazil does, which for 20 years attacked in a frenzy but managed nothing, nor do like Italy, which for years defended and defended but only when it balanced out did it win the title,” he said.
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