Captain Mile Jedinak led the way with a second half hat-trick yesterday, as Australia brushed aside Honduras 3-1 in the second leg of their inter-confederation playoff to secure a place at next year’s FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.
The midfielder scored from a deflected free-kick and two penalties to give Australia a comfortable aggregate victory and send the Asian champions to the finals for the fourth straight tournament.
Honduras, who had been held to a 0-0 draw in the home leg last week, had been bidding for a third successive World Cup appearance, but offered little in attack until Alberth Elis’s stoppage-time goal earned the visitors some scant consolation.
“It’s a bit hard to describe, it’s unreal,” Jedinak said in a post-match interview. “We knew it was always going to be a difficult qualifying campaign, but this makes it very, very special. It’s been a tough two-and-a-half-years to get to this point, but we did it. We’re very grateful we’re going to another World Cup.”
It was the 22nd match of Australia’s qualifying campaign and it remains to be seen if coach Ange Postecoglou will lead the squad to Russia after he was reported in local media to be contemplating stepping down.
It seemed unlikely he would make his future clear yesterday and spoil a party which got underway with a fireworks display over Sydney harbor as soon as the final whistle sounded.
As in San Pedro Sula on Friday last week, the Socceroos had the better of a forgettable first half without being able to forge a breakthrough.
Tim Cahill, who missed that match with an ankle injury, started as a lone striker, but his teammates were unable to present him with any clear-cut chances to notch up his 51st international goal.
The 37-year-old turned provider in the 37th minute when he combined with Aziz Behich on the left flank to carve out an opportunity for Tom Rogic, only for the Celtic midfielder to direct his shot straight at goalkeeper Donis Escober.
The nervous wait for an opening goal ended seven minutes into the second half when Rogic finally put together one of his trademark mazy runs and was brought down on the edge of the penalty box.
Jedinak stepped up to fire his free-kick wide of the wall and into the midriff of substitute defender Henry Figueroa, with the resulting deflection sending the ball back past the diving Escober into the net.
The second goal came in the 72nd minute when Mooy’s low cross from the left grazed the hand and foot of Bryan Acosta inside the area and Jedinak’s powerful spot kick to the left proved too strong for Escobar’s outstretched fingers.
IRELAND V DENMARK
Denmark go to next year’s World Cup with one of the world’s top 10 players in Christian Eriksen, coach Age Hareide said on Tuesday, after the Tottenham playmaker grabbed a hat-trick in the 5-1 thrashing of Ireland.
Denmark booked their ticket to Russia in style in the second leg in Dublin, running away with a tie that was in the balance after a goalless first game in Copenhagen.
“All the teams who go to the World Cup have star players and players who can make the difference and Christian showed that today,” Hareide said. “He’s absolutely in the top 10 [players in the world]. We saw it against Real Madrid, he’s probably one of the best players in his position in Europe at the moment.”
TWO AND TWO: Lin Chen-hao of Taiwan finished seventh in the women’s U-48kg category, winning two bouts before losses the quarter-finals and a repechage match Naohisa Takato yesterday won Japan’s first gold medal at their home Olympics, beating Taiwan’s Yang Yung-wei in the men’s under-60kg judo final. Yang’s second-place finish is Taiwan’s first medal in Tokyo and the nation’s first-ever medal in an Olympics judo competition. Kosovo’s Distria Krasniqi beat Japan’s Funa Tonaki in the women’s under-48kg final less than an hour before Takato made sure that his team would not have a double heartbreak on the opening day of competition in its beloved homegrown martial art. Takato won his final three bouts in sudden-death golden score, but he took the final a bit anticlimactically after Yang committed
Four key men’s doubles pairings — dubbed by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) as “the group of death” — are to take over two courts side-by-side today just after midday in Tokyo, in matches that already have the badminton world abuzz. What is formally known as Group A pits pairings from Taiwan, Indonesia, India and Britain against one another — the former three ranked in the top 10. Taiwanese pairing Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin are set to challenge Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty of India, while world No. 1 duo Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia are to
After complaining about flying economy class to the Olympic Games, Taiwanese badminton player Tai Tzu-ying appeared satisfied with her hotel room in Tokyo, praising its proximity to the badminton venue. “It saves commuting time and allows more time to rest,” the 27-year-old Tai wrote on Instagram yesterday morning. “It’s very good.” The Athletes’ Village is about 50 minutes by car from the badminton venue, but the hotel is only a 10-minute drive, she said. “It’ll give me more time to rest and prepare, whether before or after a match,” Tai added. Taiwan’s badminton team is staying at the Marroad Inn Tokyo in Chofu City,
KEEP ’EM COMING: In her first Olympic appearance, Lo set a high bar, fighting her way to the final bouts, and earning Taiwan its second medal after Yang Yung-wei’s silver Taiwan’s Lo Chia-ling yesterday clinched the nation’s second medal at the Tokyo Olympics, grabbing a bronze medal in taekwondo in the women’s 57kg class. Nineteen-year-old Lo beat Nigeria’s Tekiath Ben Yessouf 10-6 at Tokyo’s Makuhari Messe convention center. Lo, who is making her first appearance in the Olympic Games, worked her way to the bronze medal contest with an early 20-18 win against South Korea’s Lee Ah-reum in the round of 16, before dropping Canada’s Skylar Park 18-7 in the quarter-final. It was Anastasija Zolotic of the US who denied the former World Taekwondo Junior Championship gold medalist a chance to fight for