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Australia reach fourth-straight World Cup after defeating Honduras

Sydney (AFP) – Tim Cahill’s call for more playing time surprised his club coach Thursday and raised the prospect of a move for the veteran after Australia qualified for the World Cup following a stellar showing by captain Mile Jedinak.

Australia reached their fourth-straight World Cup Wednesday in Sydney after defeating Honduras in a 3-1 aggregate playoff victory in the qualifiers, with Jedinak scoring a hat-trick.

Cahill told Fox Sports Australia late Wednesday after the win that he had to “make some big decisions on the level of where I’m playing at and what I’m going to do”.

“I need game time,” said Cahill, who has played 104 games for Australia and turns 38 next month.

The Australian talisman has been used sparingly by Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce in the A-League this season and his comments were widely viewed as suggesting he could leave the club if he did not get more game time ahead of the World Cup in Russia next year.

Joyce told reporters Thursday he had not heard similar comments from Cahill.

He added during an A-League press conference that he had been treating Cahill “like any other player”, and that City had helped him to balance his club and country commitments.

“I think the fact we’ve managed to be able to get him to play 120 minutes in one game (against Syria) without playing full games for us … is a credit to the medical staff and sports science staff here. I think that plan has probably helped Timmy and Australia as well.”

Cahill overcame an ankle injury to step up for the Socceroos on Wednesday night, but it was Jedinak who stole the limelight in the second leg.

– ‘The Jedi Master’ –

His first goal came via a free-kick off Honduras’s Henry Figueroa in the second-half and the next two from penalties.

“Mile Jedinak was the starring figure, a leader in every sense,” Sydney’s Daily Telegraph wrote.

Christening him the “Jedi Master”, Melbourne’s The Age said it was “appropriate that the man who delivered the coup de grace when it counted most was the skipper”.

“Jedinak it is, the quiet looming presence, the manager’s coach on the field, who has been a tower of strength whenever this team has wobbled and wavered.

“And now, extraordinarily, this holding midfielder, this destroyer of opponents, is the goal-scoring hero who has delivered Australia’s World Cup dreams.”

Australia’s qualification for Russia 2018 has not removed doubts over whether Ange Postecoglou would remain as coach, following reports last month that he would be stepping down even if the Socceroos triumphed over Honduras.

Postecoglou told reporters after the game that Australia had already set in place their preparations for the road to Russia.

“A lot of the planning for the World Cup is already in place. We’ve already got a training base. Everything is pretty much in place. we don’t have another game until March,” he said.

“From that perspective, there’s nothing of real urgency. The draw (for the World Cup) is the next marker, where you find out who you’re playing, where you’re playing.”

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