Australia coach Ange Postecoglou accused Honduran media of being disrespectful of his team, and said his players had used it as motivation before Friday’s 0-0 draw in the first leg of the World Cup playoff.
Australia missed a number of chances in San Pedro Sula, but had the better of a scrappy game played on a soggy, torn-up pitch and on Wednesday will head to the second leg in Sydney confident of qualifying for the finals in Russia next year.
Postecoglou took exception to a local newspaper that dismissed his team as “11 kangaroos” in a headline and used the post-match news conference to berate the home media.
“Maybe you thought we were going to be easy,” Postecoglou told reporters. “I saw in the newspaper you said it was 11 kangaroos out there, but kangaroos can play football, eh?”
“People [in Australia] made comments about Honduras — they were wrong and we apologies for that, but there were some comments made in Honduras about our team that were disrespectful as well,” he added.
“We had two players [Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan] who play in the [English] Premier League, we’ve got players in the first divisions in Europe. All I heard was we have a simple game plan and no stars — that was our motivation,” he said. “We do our talking when the game comes.”
The Socceroos missed out on making a more emphatic point, with striker Tomi Juric wasting a gilt-edged chance to score in the first half.
With only Donis Escober to beat, Juric rolled a tepid shot wide and was later frustrated when the goalkeeper blocked his more forceful header from close in front in the second half.
The Socceroos have played attractive soccer through much of their long campaign to qualify for a fourth successive World Cup, but have often let themselves down with a lack of clinical finishing.
They will be grateful for goal-scoring reinforcements in Sydney, with wingers Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse unavailable at San Pedro Sula due to suspension and injury respectively.
Talismanic striker Tim Cahill, who scored a double in the second leg of the Asian World Cup playoff against Syria, was unused on the bench against Honduras after suffering an ankle problem when playing for his Australian club last week.
However, Postecoglou could fault none of the replacements’ efforts and said his team had silenced the packed crowd by dominating play.
“For the most part, we kept the crowd pretty quiet,” he said. “I thought it was a great performance. I thought we’re good enough in our play to get one or two goals. If we play like that at home we’ll score goals and take it to them.”
The Socceroos were also buoyed by the successful return of captain and midfield general Mile Jedinak, who came through the match unscathed and performed well on his comeback from a long-term groin injury.
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