Honduras set for 'game of their lives' against Australia
Honduras' World Cup play-off against Australia will be "one of the most important games of our lives" and the Central American side believe their hopes of reaching Russia depend on a first-leg win at home, Houston Dynamo winger Romell Quioto said.
Honduras finished in fourth in the Concacaf region, thanks to a last-day win over Mexico and will meet Australia at the Olimpico Metropolitano Stadium in San Pedro Sula on Saturday morning (Singapore time), before heading Down Under for the second leg next Wednesday.
The Central Americans have struggled recently, with just three wins in their last 16 matches, and Quioto admits they will need to produce their best form to qualify for next year's tournament.
"It is one of the most important games of our lives," Quioto said.
"It is the chance to go to the World Cup Finals. We are going to give it everything."
Quioto and his teammates have all stressed that they need to take a decent result to Australia, whose only losses at home this year were to Brazil and Germany.
"You have to give your all in these games, you have to kill them off if you can," striker Anthony Lozano, who scored for the Barcelona B team in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Cultural Leonesa, told Honduran newspaper La Prensa.
"It's home and away, so we have to take advantage of the home leg. We're motivated and I am sure we will be going to the World Cup."
Honduras have recalled veteran striker Carlos Costly in the hope that the 35-year-old can add to his tally of 32 goals in 75 international appearances and they were boosted earlier in the week with the inclusion of Eddie Hernandez, who is recovering quicker than expected from a cheek fracture.
Both sides have suspensions, with Honduras missing captain Maynor Figueroa and forward Alberth Elis for the first leg.
"We are really up for it and we're arriving at a time when we're playing well for our clubs," said Elis, who has been a key performer in Dynamos' march to the North America's Major League Soccer play-offs.
"We have to be convincing here and build up a good advantage to take that big step towards the World Cup."
Australia, meanwhile, are sweating on the availability of veteran forward Tim Cahill, who flew to Honduras with his physio, in the hope of working his injured ankle into match readiness.
The Socceroos will also be without VfL Bochum striker Robbie Kruse, who has a knee injury, and Mark Milligan and Mathew Leckie are both suspended.
They can, however, count on ample play-off experience, most memorably in 2005, when they defeated two-time World Cup winners Uruguay.
This time they have the added disadvantage in having to make two very long trips and coach Ange Postecoglou said that securing a result in Honduras will be crucial if their tired legs are to carry them to Russia.
"They are going to have to get something out of that first game," Postecoglou said.
"Because coming back here, while our players are quite experienced at travelling long haul and the effect it has on performance and mindset, they're going to have to deal with that." - REUTERS