sports 1 week ago

Cahill says he's fit to face Honduras in World Cup playoff

The Associated Press

SYDNEY (AP) — Veteran forward Tim Cahill says he's fit enough to take a full part in Wednesday's winner-takes-all World Cup playoff against Honduras.

Cahill was an unused substitute in the first leg of the intercontinental playoff in Honduras last Friday, when he was recovering from an ankle injury. The match ended in a 0-0 draw, leaving match at Sydney's Olympic stadium to decide which team progresses to next year's World Cup in Russia.

Cahill, who played in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, said he could have played in San Pedro Sula last week if called on.

The Socceroos returned to Australia on Sunday on a chartered flight, almost a full day before Honduras touched down in Sydney following a long-haul commercial flight.

The travel schedule and home advantage may have tipped the balance of the series in favor of Asian Cup champion Australia and positive fitness bulletins around the 37-year-old Cahill have added to a buoyant mood among the home team.

"If I had to play in Honduras I definitely would have made a contribution," Cahill told reporters Monday. "That's what it's all about, putting your body on the line and sacrificing for these two games, for such a big occasion for our country to qualify for a fourth consecutive World Cup."

Cahill said he is confident of a victory in Sydney and had given no thought to the possibility of another draw, which could force the match to extra time and penalties.

"I'm definitely not thinking about it — that's the difference between me and anyone else," Cahill said. "I don't think about the negatives leading into something that's so important for our country. What's driving me is Wednesday night.

"I'm feeling really good. It was awesome to train in Honduras and get two sessions in so I feel great. I feel like I'm going to be involved."

Cahill said he had had "the best recuperation possible" and he would have no reservations about his fitness if asked to play in the return leg.

"After this game all of us have plenty of time to put our bodies back together," he said, "It's a small sacrifice for such a big return."

Cahill was involved when Australia beat Uruguay on penalties in an intercontinental playoff in Sydney in 2005 to qualify for the following year's World Cup in Germany, ending decades of disappointing defeats in qualifying.

Australia wasted opportunities to qualify directly for the 2018 tournament — missing out on an automatic spot on goal difference to Saudi Arabia — and then had to beat Syria in an Asian playoff series to set up the intercontinental qualifier against Honduras, which finished fourth in a hectic finish in qualifying for North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Cahill said he believed this Socceroos squad was on the right track to get Australia into a fourth consecutive World Cup.

"I feel that everything is going really well. If it goes beyond 90 minutes then so be it, but we're not going to be over-confident," he said. "We always respect our opponent, but from the performance we've seen in Honduras I feel the team is ready to put a good performance out."

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