With ‘s World Cup future on the line, coach Ange Postecoglou’s confidence in his players is as strong as it has ever been.
The Socceroos go into Wednesday night’s sudden-death second-round tie with Honduras in the driving seat, having gained a 0-0 draw in San Pedro Sula on Saturday morning.
Now the coach is expecting them to finish the job.
Postecoglou is confident in his game plan which has, at times, been the subject of severe criticism, especially when the team failed to qualify directly from its Asian group.
And he pledges to continue using the template he has sought to make synonymous with the n approach to football: a high-tempo, pressing style that takes the game to the opposition irrespective of the scoreline or the circumstances.
“It all comes down to this last 24 hours … the feeling within the camp is that we are ready for a big game and hopefully getting the job done,” Postecoglou said at the match venue, Stadium , on Tuesday afternoon.
“I have never wavered in confidence or belief in the players and that’s because I have sensed in them that they have always had a belief in what we are doing.
“We have consistently played at a certain level. Sometimes the results haven’t been as desired, but the performances haven’t dropped through this pretty long qualifying campaign.”
Postecoglou is not expecting the Hondurans to alter their strategy much.
In San Pedro Sula, on a cow paddock of a pitch, they hit plenty of long balls but were penned back for long periods by the ns who, with a dash of luck, could have returned home a goal or two to the good.
Honduras looked bereft of imagination and ideas for much of the game as stifled them. But Postecoglou counselled against complacency while urging his players to take control from the start.
“I don’t think there will be much of a difference … they are a dangerous team, there’s no doubt about that.
“They scored three past Mexico in the last window. They have got some attacking threats and we knew where they would come from [in the first game].
“‘I thought the players were really disciplined defensively in terms of just keeping our structure knowing what they had to deliver.
“More important for us is that we impose ourselves on the game.
“I think we did that in the first leg even though we were away from home. On a difficult pitch in difficult conditions, we still played our football, forced them to defend, forced them back.
“That’s going to be the key tomorrow night. Tomorrow night is us dictating the game, and if we do that as we did in the past we will be hard to stop.”
While Postecoglou is not completely happy with the state of the Stadium pitch – he believes it was in better condition for last month’s clash with Syria in the Asian play-off – he thinks his team will adapt quicker.
“I think this pitch will suit us and it didn’t the other day,” he said. “If we can play like we did the other day on a pitch that didn’t suit us then I reckon we can do a whole lot better on a pitch that does.
“We are going to start aggressively and as long as the game goes, 90 minutes, 120 minutes, we will keep going at the same level. It’s up to the opposition to try and stop us or keep up with us. We have never sat back after scoring and we have never changed anything if we conceded. The approach is always the same.
“In games like tomorrow I think that helps. It’s not like the players are going out there worried about a scoreline. They are going out there focusing on playing our football, our tempo as long as the game goes. When we do that we usually come out on top.”
Postecoglou has not been afraid to ring the changes and pick players he thinks can do the job in specific circumstances. He is likely to do so again on Wednesday given the arduous travel schedule his side has faced, the stamina-sapping conditions they played in and the fact that he has a number of key players who are fresh from not having travelled to Central America.
“We have been pretty consistent in our approach. We had a few players, three, who didn’t travel, a few more who didn’t play much in the game,” he said. “They are all pretty important players for us so there’s an opportunity to put some fresh legs on … I will see how they train and make the decisions there.
“The adjustment will come not because of a reaction to the first game but because I will put out an 11 that I think will win the game tomorrow.”
Tim Cahill, ‘s talisman, is ready to rumble if needed from the start.
“He probably could have played in the first game, but looking at that pitch and the way the game went we were able to keep him fresh for this one,” Postecoglou said.
“He’s certainly ready to go, we trained yesterday, we trained fully today – if he’s limping he’s doing it in his room, he’s hiding it from me.
“At this stage we have got everyone fit and available and wanting to start.”