The Honduras football team has finally arrived in Sydney ahead of Wednesday night’s crucial FIFA World Cup play-off against Australia.
But they did so more than 18 hours after their opponents, with the Socceroos touching down on Sunday afternoon on a specially organised charter flight from San Pedro Sula.
The two nations played out a goalless draw on Saturday in the first leg before the Socceroos raced to the airport in a bid to best prepare for the return meeting.
And no expense was spared, with the charter flight reportedly coming in at a cost of around $A1 million – about $250,000 more than a commercial option.
Australia’s players, who travelled in business class, were kept comfortable by their fitness staff, who gave them regular massages on treatment tables set up inside the plane, while coaches studied video footage.
Green ‘anti-fatigue’ glasses were dished out by medical guru Craig Duncan, in a bid to control the sleeping patterns of the Socceroos players, while healthy meals, compression aids and darkened glasses – when sleep was required – were also on hand.
Duncan also controlled the temperature on board the plane, keeping it warm when players were told to stay awake and making it cooler as the flight went on.
Socceroo star Massimo Luongo described the travelling experience as “on point” and added that Honduras would find their journey back to Australia “difficult”.
Honduras travelled on commercial flights and are believed to have had two stopovers in the United States on a 33-hour round trip to Sydney.
They emerged slightly weary on Monday morning [local time], even if they were greeted by a small but passionate group of Honduras supporters.
Australia forward Tomi Juric said on Monday that he and his team-mates were “doing really well” after the luxurious charter flight.
“I think everyone has seen the flight that we [have] been on and all the little gadgets and technology that we, you know, got to get us over that line, those little extras,” he said.
“I think a lot of the boys have pulled up well even though it was a pretty rough pitch on the weekend.
“We’ve done a good job getting here early … the boys are doing really well.”
Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou will be hoping the expensive flight provides that extra edge on Wednesday evening at Stadium Australia.
A win – either after 90 minutes, extra time or a penalty shootout – will see Australia reach their fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup.
But a draw, if it is not 0-0, will see Honduras progress via away goals, while a defeat comes with obvious consequences.
– with AAP