SYDNEY: Captain Mile Jedinak scored a hat-trick as Australia booked their place at the World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Honduras in the inter-confederation play-off in Sydney.
Captain Mile Jedinak scored a hat-trick as Australia booked their place at the World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Honduras in the inter-confederation play-off in Sydney.
Aston Villa midfielder Jedinak broke the deadlock early in the second half with a deflected free-kick, before adding another goal from the penalty spot after 72 minutes to spark great celebrations among the 77,000-strong crowd at the ANZ Stadium.
The Socceroos skipper clinched his treble with five minutes left when he slotted a second penalty past Donis Escober.
Honduras captain Maynor Figueroa netted a consolation for the visitors in stoppage time.
Australia had missed out on automatic qualification for next summer’s finals after finishing behind Asian Football Confederation rivals Japan and Saudi Arabia, and so went into a regional play-off where they ended Syria’s hopes of advancing further towards Russia.
Ange Postecoglou’s men then returned from Honduras with a goalless draw from the first leg, and in the end had too much for the Central Americans, who had finished fourth in the CONCACAF qualifying campaign.
Australia had veteran midfielder Tim Cahill fit following an ankle problem, while Hertha Berlin winger Mathew Leckie returned from suspension.
There was a positive start by the hosts, although one which many Socceroos fans missed because of transport problems on trains out to the Olympic Park.
Honduras goalkeeper Escober had to be alert as Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy sent the ball into the penalty area towards Cahill, with Leckie looking to capitalise on the rebound.
Late in the first half, Aziz Behich picked out Tom Rogic, but the Celtic midfielder could not get enough power on his shot to trouble Escober.
Australia make the breakthrough eight minutes into the second half when Jedinak’s free-kick from just outside the penalty area took a massive deflection off substitute Henry Figueroa to beat a wrong-footed Escober.
Honduras had complained of “espionage” in the build-up to the second leg, posting social media footage of an apparent drone flying above the stadium at a training session.
Despite going behind, they knew an away goal without reply would take them through if they denied Australia any more goals.
Australia, however, remained on the offensive as Cahill’s looping header dropped onto the crossbar.
Jedinak settled any nerves when he converted from the spot into the bottom corner after Bryan Acosta was penalised for handball.
The match-winner completed his treble with another penalty in the 85th minute after substitute Robbie Kruse was hacked down by Jonny Palacios when clean through.
Figueroa bundled the ball in following a corner during stoppage time, but the night belonged to Australia as fireworks were set off above the Sydney Harbour Bridge in celebration.
Jedinak said later: “It was our duty as a nation of football players to get this job done. We set out on a task two and a half years ago – we stuck to our guns and we got there. “This is special – to do it in front of our home fans in a do-or-die contest.”