Australia chooses Honduras over United States as base for qualifier
The Socceroos will throw themselves into the fire ahead of their World Cup playoff with Honduras, opting to spend the lead-up week to their away match in the Central American nation.
Coach Ange Postecoglou and Football Federation Australia have decided against basing themselves in the United States ahead of the clash. In doing so, they'll give themselves the best chance to acclimatise.
But the Socceroos will also be at the mercy of fanatical local support eager to see their country represented in Russia next year. Los Catrachos have reached the last two World Cups off the back of a superb home record.
On the road to the 2010, 2014 and 2018 tournaments, Honduras have lost just four of 25 home qualifiers.
Australia will first head to the world No. 70s as part of a two-legged November match-up that concludes Australia's longest path to a World Cup.
Honduras hosts the first match on Friday, Nov. 10 before a home tie in Sydney on Nov. 15.
Australia's last two intercontinental playoffs -- against Uruguay in 2001 and 2005 -- give a reminder of the hostilities that might be expected on the away day.
The Socceroos based themselves in Montevideo in 2001, contending with fireworks outside their hotel rooms, hostilities in transit and even spitting fans at the airport.
Then-FFA chief John O'Neill described the farce, which preceded a 3-0 defeat and a missed chance to go to the 2002 tournament, as an "orchestrated campaign by some pretty unsavoury parts of the Montevideo football establishment."
Four years later, drawn against the same opponent, Guus Hiddink based his team in nearby Buenos Aires.
It's not lost on Australian officials that the first-leg result in 2005, a 1-0 defeat, laid the platform to qualify the next week in Sydney.
FFA's advance planning team has agonised over the call, deciding that measures can be put in place to ensure a smooth training and preparation ahead of match day.
"We're certainly already looking at the logistics of being on the ground in Honduras," FFA chief executive David Gallop said when asked about special security provisions on Monday.
"We'll have people there well in advance and we'll do what we can to make sure that we acclimatise and have ourselves in a position to play good football."
Players will begin to arrive in Honduras from Nov. 5, with latecomers landing on the following days.
FFA is still awaiting advice from its Honduran counterparts, FENAFUTH, as to the venue and time of the match.
The Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula -- which has hosted each of the country's home qualifiers in this cycle to date -- is all but certain to be the venue, but the FFA aren't ruling out a last-minute change-up.
Australian officials are also likely to utilise a charter flight back to Sydney, avoiding a marathon commercial flight chain that might have landed the team on home soil as late as Monday.