The Socceroos may have to play the away leg of their do-or-die play-off against Honduras in searing temperatures after the central Americans asked FIFA for the kick-off time to be brought forward half an hour due to predicted thunderstorms.
Even though it is only 30 minutes earlier, the move could mean the first-half of the match on November 10 (November 11 AEDT) will be played in conditions that are so hot and humid that the match would have to be postponed or delayed if it was being staged in Australia.
The notice was submitted to FIFA and Football Federation Australia this week for the match to be moved from 4pm local time to 3.30pm, citing concerns for possible thunderstorms in San Pedro Sula in the afternoon, more than a week before the match is due to be played.
The timing of the request has raised some concerns within the Australian camp that the Hondurans may be resorting to "dirty tricks" by trying to unsettle the Socceroos. There is little doubt a revised kick-off time would mean the match would be played at a time when the conditions are at their most uncomfortable for the visitors.
Should FIFA approve the match being brought forward to 3.30pm, the temperature would typically be 30 degrees at kick-off, with humidity hovering around 60 per cent. That is the hottest possible conditions before FIFA will mandate drink breaks for players.
Both FIFA and the FFA use Wet Bulb Globe Temperature readings to make decisions on delays, breaks and postponement of games during cases of extreme heat. The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature takes into account heat, humidity, wind chill and sunlight.
The FFA postpones and/or delays games when the wet bulb reading is 28 degrees and mandates 90 second drink breaks when the WBGT is between 26 and 27.9 degrees. FIFA, however, is far more lenient on playing during heat and only mandates drink breaks at WBGT readings over 32 degrees. Should the first leg of the Socceroos' qualifier against Honduras be brought forward by 30 minutes, the first half will be played with a predicted WBGT of 31 degrees, well beyond what is deemed safe in Australia but at the hottest point before FIFA will sanction drink breaks.
A match played in extreme heat could benefit the hosts, who do not have a single member of their 25-man squad playing club football in a cold climate. Sixteen players are based in Honduras, while their overseas players are based in Texas, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Greece and Spain.
By contrast, just four members of the Socceroos squad play in Australia, with the overwhelming majority based in Europe. Seven players are in the UK, two in Germany with others playing in Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, South Korea and Japan.
It's understood Football Federation Australia are set to write to FIFA expressing their preference for the kick-off time to remain at 4pm but are holding little hope of that being the case. Precedence usually suggests preference goes towards home teams and given that the extreme heat will fall marginally below FIFA's more relaxed regulations, it's likely the match will be moved forward.
Fairfax Media understands that while the Socceroos are disappointed with the approach from Honduras, the team is well placed to deal with a time shift due to the extensive work done by their fitness and conditioning staff.
Fairfax Media sought comment from FFA and the players' union, Professional Footballers Australia but both declined to comment.