The Socceroos’ path to Russia has finally become clear but the road ahead takes them to one of the most deadly cities in the world.
Australia will play Honduras in the final 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying play-off after the Central American nation stunned giants Mexico at home, winning 3-2 and benefiting from other results going in their favour.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) awaits official confirmation of the fixture details from FIFA, however the matches will take place during the international window next month.
The return leg will be played at Stadium Australia in Sydney. Ticketing details will be released in the coming days.
FFA Chief Executive David Gallop said he was expecting a big crowd in Sydney for the second leg of the must-win tie.
“The whole nation is going to be behind the team when they play in Honduras but our FIFA World Cup fate will be decided right here in Sydney. We have every confidence that Ange (Postecoglou) and the players can get the job done. It will be a massive night for football and the wonderful memories of the Uruguay game in 2005 will get the turnstiles spinning,” Gallop said.
Caltex Socceroos Head Coach Postecoglou said detailed preparations for the matches were already well advanced.
"I am aware of reports today suggesting that I will step down as Head Coach of the Socceroos next month,” said Postecoglou.
“My sole focus is on preparing the team for our final two qualifying matches. I will not let anything compromise the team’s journey on getting to a fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup.”
Gallop said he had spoken to Postecoglou about the reports and agreed the focus should be on the November matches.
“Beyond that, should we qualify, there is a period of some months until the World Cup and we agreed that we will need to lock in our set up as soon as possible to maximise our preparation time.”
In Central and North America matches played this morning, no result was bigger than the humiliating 2-1 loss US suffered at the hands of minnows Trinidad and Tobago to miss out on qualifying for a World Cup for the first time in 32 years.
It was a topsy turvy afternoon for the Americans.
The US went from controlling their destiny to being eliminated altogether after the defeat to the group's bottom side.
They travelled to Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva needing only a draw to qualify but fell behind 2-0 in the first half, and could claw back only one goal in the 47th minute through Christian Pulisic.
Had either Honduras or Panama lost, the US's World Cup hopes would still be alive.
Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and others were left in disbelief on the pitch after the final whistle.
"No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point," US coach Bruce Arena said.
"It's a blemish for us."
Elsewhere, Panama clinched a dramatic 87th-minute winner at home to the already qualified Costa Rica to seal the final automatic qualification spot for Russia 2018 and reach the World Cup for the first time.
Honduras' shock win over Mexico was enough to seal fourth spot and a play-off with the Socceroos.
While it means Australia avoided a clash with one of CONCACAF's powerhouses in USA, they will likely have to travel to one of the most intimidating and dangerous cities in the world.
Honduras have played all their World Cup qualifiers at the Estadio Olimpico Municipal in San Pedro Sula, rather than in their capital city of Tegucigalpa.
San Pedro Sula, until recently, statistically had the world's highest murder rate outside of a war zone. Last year, it had a homicide rate of 112 people for every 100,000.
The atmosphere at Honduras' home games is famously tense and hostile.
It promises to be one of the toughest situations coach Ange Postecoglou has faced, in what is set to be his final away game in charge of the Socceroos before resigning before the World Cup. He hopes to receive as much financial support as possible from the FFA for the cut- throat tie.
FFA opened its coffers for the Syria fixtures, providing a charter flight to whisk the squad from Malaysia to Sydney last week, a venture the coach felt significantly enhanced recovery.
"What they (FFA) is doing is trying to be as professional as possible," Postecoglou said after Tuesday night's 2-1 play-off win over Syria.
"I'm not sure the charter flight is an option for this one, but you can certainly can see out there it helped us in terms of our recovery processes.
"I don't think we should smirk at that, that's a fantastic initiative by the organisation.
"They're backing the team and we need those kind of things to work in our favour.
"Same as the pitch - it was in good condition and hopefully it is in a month's time as well.
"All those things make a difference when you're fighting for something which is as big a prize as this and the opposition are going to fight tooth and nail."
Both Mark Milligan and Mathew Leckie will be suspended for the first leg after picking up their second yellow cards of the Syria matches.
The key pair's absence will be a blow, especially given Australia will play the first leg in extremely tough away conditions.
North Central America and Caribbean region’s qualified teams for World Cup:
- Costa Rica
Team through to intercontinental qualifying playoff:
- With wires
The story, Socceroos on the path to one of the world's most dangerous cities, San Pedro Sula in Honduras, first appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald.