Football

Cryptic coach overshadows Jedi Master

Socceroos boss Postecoglou says 'it won't take too long' for him to decide if he's going to Russia 2018

WORLD CUP PLAY-OFF, 2ND LEG
 AUSTRALIA HONDURAS

3

1
(Mile Jedinak 54, 72-pen, 85-pen) (Alberth Elis 90+4) 

Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak might have been the star of the show on the pitch with his set-piece hat-trick, but his boss Ange Postecoglou stole the show post-match with his cryptic comments about his future after Australia beat Honduras 3-1 to seal their 2018 World Cup Finals spot yesterday.

Australia's Jedi Master opened the scoring at Stadium Australia with a deflected free-kick in the 54th minute before showing no nerves to put away a couple of penalties in the 72nd and 85th minutes.

Honduras pulled one back four minutes into injury time via Alberth Elis.

The win saw the Socceroos seal their spot in Russia 3-1 on aggregate following last week's 0-0 first leg in San Pedro Sula.

FANTASTIC ACHIEVEMENT

An emotional Postecoglou hailed Australia's qualification for June's Finals as a "fantastic achievement" but still would not confirm whether he would lead the squad at the tournament.

The 52-year-old coach has passed up plenty of opportunities over the last month to rebut a media report that he was planning to step down from the job regardless of yesterday's result.

While Postecoglou gave a hint that the pressures on his family were behind his vacillation, he was in no mood to clarify his position.

"Right now, it's about enjoying the moment," he said.

"I owe it to myself, and to my family, my friends. While I've got a thick skin, they've had to cop what I've been copping. It's unfair on them.

"Tonight is just about enjoying it... What happens beyond here can be picked up tomorrow.

"I'll sit down with the powers that be. Obviously it's important that the planning goes ahead. The draw's not too far away. It won't take too long."

Australian football pundits dissected his words on Fox Sports and drew different conclusions.

Former Osasuna and Portsmouth striker John Aloisi said: "There's something he's not happy with. I can't see him staying on."

Ex-West Ham United midfielder Robbie Slater agreed, adding that there must be "some problem only he (Postecoglou) knows about".

But former Manchester United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich disagreed with the pair, saying: "He'll stay and he'll go to the World Cup... He's earned the right to do what he wants."

Postecoglou took over less than a year before the last World Cup and led Australia in a creditable campaign in Brazil followed by an Asian Cup triumph on home soil in early 2015.

He came under fire for his switch to a three-man defensive line-up when the campaign to reach Russia faltered, however.

The criticism intensified when Australia missed out on automatic qualification.

Taking aim at his critics, Postecoglou said: "If people still think I go around worrying about what other people say and try to get some vindication, you have missed the last 20 years.

"I won my first championship when I was 31 years old.

"I can coach for another twenty years, and you know what, I will always be an outsider in Australian football."

Australia, however, won't join the likes of Italy, Holland and Chile in being outsiders looking in at Russia 2018 and three-goal hero Jedinak hailed the "special" feeling.

He said: "We're very grateful, we're going to another World Cup.

EXTRA SPECIAL

"It's extra special. It was our duty as a nation of football players to get this job done and we stuck to our guns and we got (it done)."

Teammate Mark Milligan added: "I think this group have gone through a lot with the way we want to play, to not qualifying automatically, to these play-offs and some tough matches against Syria."

Australia's all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill added that he "would do anything to stay a part of this team", including leaving his club Melbourne City to ensure he is in the best shape for Russia.

Honduras' coach Jorge Luis Pinto, meanwhile, said: "Australia were very strong and aggressive and put pressure on us and tried to neutralise us." - WIRE SERVICES

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