It’s been 12 years since beat Uruguay to qualify for the World Cup, but the success of that play-off is still influencing the Socceroos’ approach to playing Honduras in their quest to reach Russia.
Fairfax Media understands the Socceroos are looking at holding their pre-match training camp at a nearby neutral venue before flying into San Pedro Sula, Honduras, immediately before the game. It is a similar approach to how prepared for their first leg tie against Uruguay in 2005, training in nearby Buenos Aires in Argentina before travelling to Uruguay for the match in Montevideo.
In 2001, played Uruguay in Montevideo for a place in the 2002 World Cup and were subjected to an intimidating reception from supporters, including fireworks ignited around the hotel to disrupt the players’ sleep. That prompted a different approach in 2005 to avoid any potential disruption, by keeping the players away from the hostilities of local fans and media.
The 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Honduras will be played in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, at a venue that is notoriously intimidating. Should coach Ange Postecoglou choose to go down a similar road as Guus Hiddink did in 2005, Miami is firming as the most likely venue that will use as a training base.
Football Federation has already made tentative plans for the team to stay in Miami for several days before making the two-hour direct flight to San Pedro Sula on the eve of the match. It’s understood the national team coaches will make the final decision next week on where the team will be based.
While the chance of interference remains possible, the coaches are confident their players are more accustomed to difficult surroundings as a result of their experiences throughout this qualifying campaign. The most challenging environments the 2001 and 2005 teams that played Uruguay had previously experienced during qualification was in cities such as Honiara. By contrast, the 2018 hopefuls played in Bangladesh during a period of terrorist attacks targeting Westerners and required high-level security.
The Socceroos could charter a flight to take them from Honduras to Sydney after the first leg to afford the players as much recovery time before the second leg. The FFA assisted the Socceroos’ preparations for their AFC play-off tie against Syria with a chartered flight from Malaysia to Sydney and have not ruled out doing so for the final intercontinental play-off to get to Russia.
However, it may not be necessary as there are commercial flights available that could see the team arrive in Sydney only a few hours later than a chartered plane.