Socceroos legend Craig Moore said a fast start is crucial if Australia is to defeat Honduras and qualify for the FIFA World Cup on Wednesday evening.
Ange Postecoglou’s side will reach sport’s most-watched event if it beats Honduras at Stadium Australia after the two nations played out a goalless draw in San Pedro Sula on Saturday (AEDT).
The Aussies were dominant on that occasion but were profligate in front of goal, something that has become a bit of a consistent theme in recent times.
Moore – who made 52 Australia appearances and featured at two World Cups – has more recently worked as a team mentor with the Socceroos and urged the side to be sharper in front of goal.
“We will be very aggressive from the start,” Moore, who will headline the Nine Network’s coverage of the clash, told The New Daily.
“It is down to the way we play. We have got to start well. And, most importantly, we have got to score goals, otherwise we will leave the door open. But we will get those chances [on Wednesday].
“We had the best chances [in the first leg] and it was a little disappointing we didn’t get the goal we deserved. But we did a good job – and now come back home.”
Moore said Wednesday’s clash, kicking off at 8pm, is Australia’s biggest since the famous 2005 playoff success against Uruguay, which came after John Aloisi struck the winning penalty in a shootout dominated by Mark Schwarzer’s heroic saves.
He said football in Australia “needed” qualification for the 2006 World Cup and believes the current circumstances are similar.
“The game is reportedly worth millions of dollars to the FFA [Football Federation Australia],” he said.
“But more importantly, it [qualification] is so crucial for the growth of the game and the interest of the game.
“The World Cup provides a real opportunity to grow football … people who don’t always watch our game watch when a World Cup is on. And that is a massive time for football. This is a really, really big game.
“It [the World Cup] is the world stage, against the world’s best. I dreamed about it as a boy and for me, playing in one was everything I imagined and more.”
The ‘freshness’ factor
Postecoglou can call on trio Mathew Leckie, Robbie Kruse and Mark Milligan for the second leg if he wishes, with all three unavailable for the opener due to suspension or injury.
Australia’s all-time top scorer Tim Cahill also sat out the Honduras clash, albeit from the bench, as he recovered from an ankle problem.
Postecoglou is set to call on at least two of the quartet to start and Moore thinks it could help swing the encounter Australia’s way.
“Listening to Ange, he wanted that freshness,” he said.
“Tim was looked after [in Honduras] and all the other boys are fresh.
“That will be very important, as will be the home support. On paper, we should win.”
But Moore, who played as Iran overturned a 3-1 deficit at the MCG to stun Australia and qualify for the 1998 World Cup, was quick to point out that the Socceroos would not take its opponents for granted.
“They definitely won’t take them for granted. Honduras will have the mentality, hunger and desire – they have a very similar profile to ours,” he said.
“They played a World Cup a long time ago [in 1982] and then had to wait 28 years to get back, which they did in 2010, and they backed it up in 2014. Now they have a playoff to get to another.”
Moore and 24.7 million other Australians will hope Honduras’ drought starts again.