AUSTRALIA have qualified for their fourth successive World Cup after a hat-trick of goals from skipper Mile Jedinak clinched a do-or-die 3-1 win against Honduras at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t pretty, but combined with the scoreless first leg of the tie in San Pedro Sula last weekend, it was enough for the Socceroos to secure a berth in the 32 nations who will compete at Russia 2018.
After a frustrating first half, Jedinak produced a game-changing moment in the 54th minute when he scored from a free kick.
Jedinak’s strike hooked in between the Honduras wall, deflected off defender Maynor Figueroa and left goalkeeper Donis Escober helpless.
Almost 20 minutes later, Jedinak stepped up to the spot after Honduras conceded a hand-ball penalty.
Once again he was deadly accurate, beating the despairing dive of Escober before sharing his jubilation with the 77,060-strong crowd.
His hat-trick came after substitute Robbie Kruse won a penalty in the 84th minute, and Jedinak blasted it into the middle of the net in emphatic fashion.
Honduras scored with the last kick of the game when Alberth Elis finished a goalmouth scramble.
The Socceroos dominated possession and field position but had nothing to show for it at half-time. They had 72 per cent of the ball, and enjoyed an 11-2 advantage in terms of forays into the opposition box, during a first half punctuated by a series of rugged challenges.
Defender Matt Jurman was booked after only three minutes for a tackle on Elis, and Aaron Mooy received a yellow card in injury time.
Honduras left back Emilio Izaguirre was carried from the field in the 41st minute after two heavy knocks in quick succession.
Socceroos talisman Tim Cahill, the only survivor from Australia’s previous three World Cup campaigns, returned from an ankle injury and was typically industrious until he was replaced by Tommy Rogic in the 66th minute.
It remains to be seen if coach Ange Postcoglou will take the Socceroos to Russia, amid speculation about his future.