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"A victory for fair play": FIFA erases Socceroos' yellow card rap sheet

Soccer

The Socceroos have been handed a major boost ahead of their World Cup play-off against Honduras after FIFA confirmed it will erase all leftover yellow cards from earlier qualifiers due to exceptional circumstances.

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It means a host of star players won’t be at risk of missing the second leg in Sydney through suspension if they receive cautions during Saturday morning’s (ACDT) match in San Pedro Sula.

“This decision is a victory for Fair Play,” said Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop in a statement.

“We thank FIFA for considering this exceptional circumstance and making their decision.

“This decision will allow both teams to field their best players, on even terms, for these extremely important play-off matches which is what all football fans want to see.”

It’s understood FFA officials have been lobbying FIFA for a month to make the ruling.

The chief of Honduras football claimed at the weekend his players would receive a clean slate, but not the Socceroos, sparking widespread confusion and controversy.

Under FIFA’s disciplinary code, each confederation can request FIFA to cancel cautions once during any competition.

The Asian Football Confederation asked FIFA to do so after the second round of qualifiers, while CONCACAF had not done so until now.

However, FIFA’s disciplinary committee opted to erase all of Australia’s single cautions after considering the “disproportion” in matches played in the qualification process in comparison to Honduras.

The play-offs will bring Australia up to 22 games played in qualifying, compared to 18 for Honduras.

The news will come as a huge relief to coach Ange Postecoglou, who can now instruct his players to approach the match normally, without having to worry about the implications of a ban for one yellow-card offence.

Recalled captain Mile Jedinak, key players Tom Rogic, Tomi Juric and Massimo Luongo, as well as Ryan McGowan, Jackson Irvine, Milos Degenek and Josh Risdon were among those in the gun prior to FIFA’s adjudication.

However, Mark Milligan and Mat Leckie’s suspensions for the opening tie will still take effect.

 

FENAFUTH [Federación Nacional Autónoma de Fútbol de Honduras] secretary Jose Ernesto Mejia had petitioned the world football body to clear yellow cards from the records of eight Honduran players ahead of the playoff.

According to his Twitter account, he was successful – while the Socceroos had missed out.

“The warnings of the players of Australia were NOT canceled, only our players enter clean … Go Honduras!” he tweeted.

He pointed to a FIFA ruling that suggested Australia had already received a clean slate.

“Australia has already used its right to erase yellows; in addition the H played 16 games and Aus only 12 in the last fase (sic),” he also tweeted.

 

Ange Postecoglou’s squad completed club duties in 15 countries across the weekend, and are heading for Central America, with the Socceroos collectively travelling around 200,000 kilometres from their club homes to Honduras.

It might seem like a disadvantage when the majority of the Honduras squad are based at home but Australian officials hope their meticulous planning can give them an edge.

The longest route is from Melbourne to San Pedro Sula, already undertaken by Postecoglou and James Troisi on Sunday and Tim Cahill today.

Cahill’s travel was delayed by a day to aid his recovery from a rolled ankle while on club duty with Melbourne City, and he admits he is only an “outside chance” of featuring in the first leg of Australia’s World Cup qualifying playoff against Honduras.

Cahill sported a strapped and iced ankle at Melbourne airport, where he departed to link up with the rest of the Socceroos.

He said two of his own “independent physios” have worked on his ankle for the past 48 hours but was unwilling to rule himself fit to play.

“I’m definitely not going to promise anything,” Cahill told reporters.

“We’re making a calculated decision and if it works, it’s fantastic.

“We know the situation and I’m ready to give it a go and that’s all that matters.

“I feel it deserves that because it’s probably one of the most important couple of weeks in Australian soccer coming up.

“I understand all the stuff around it with me travelling but I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it was the wrong thing.”

Cahill said he was doing everything within his power to reduce the swelling in his ankle, having undergone an MRI scan early on Saturday morning that cleared him of any breaks.

“I’ve got 20 years of experience of injuries playing at the highest level. You can speed the process with pretty much around the clock work,” he said.

“Even when I’m walking in airports I’ll have ice packs on my ankle and on the plane… I’ll have machines working on it.

“I make a strong commitment to my body. I’m 38 next month, it’s the reason why I’m still playing.

“I take it so seriously because it could be my last few games for the Socceroos.

“It might be a serious injury afterwards, but it’s all for a good cause.”

The Socceroos will at least have one striker fit and firing after Tomi Juric found the net for Swiss club FC Luzern just hours before making the trip to Honduras.

Juric scored his fifth goal of the season in a 3-0 victory over St Gallen, but had a penalty attempt saved.

It appears Cahill can hope for a late cameo off the bench in San Pedro Sula an absolute best-case scenario.

But if not, he said it was still important he was “in the trenches” with the rest of the team.

“I’ve been on the phone two weeks prior with Mile Jedinak, just speaking about how it was when we were in Uruguay (in 2005),” he said.

“It’s going to be pretty much an eye-opener for these guys.

“It’ll be a bit different not being in this sort of situation before.”

The Socceroos’ journey to the World Cup has already taken in 20 games, with away days in Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Jordan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan.

No country will have had to face a longer or more arduous route to Russia.

Milligan, who won’t travel to Honduras, has no doubt their Asian experiences would galvanise the team.

“The boys have a lot of travel ahead of them but that’s one thing we’re very good at,” he said.

“The medical staff prepare us very well to deal with that.

“The way that we prepare for flights and get ready; the recovery when we get in.

“We do it a lot and our mentality towards it is never negative. We know we have to and we get on with it.

“If you’re not used to travelling across the world all the time it can play on your mind and it can make things tough.

“We accept it. We know we’re getting looked after from the medical staff and we trust in what they’re telling us.

“That helps the mental side. The travel will be a definite advantage for us.”

Milligan will take the 90-minute flight from Melbourne to Sydney to link up with the squad next week for the second leg.

But he said that didn’t mean that he, Leckie and Robbie Kruse, who will also miss the first leg because of an injured knee, would be walk-up starters at ANZ Stadium.

“We never know who’s going to be playing,” Milligan said.

Mat Ryan, meanwhile, hailed Brighton’s journey into the top half of the English Premier League as he prepared to embark on his own marathon round-the-world trip.

The Australia goalkeeper kept a fourth clean sheet of the season as Glenn Murray’s winner at Swansea gave Brighton successive top-flight away wins for the first time since 1983 and plunged the Welsh club into the relegation zone.

It was the perfect boost for Ryan ahead of the World Cup play-off with Honduras to determine whether the Socceroos will be at next summer’s finals in Russia.

“I’ve got two massive games now and we’ll be doing everything as a nation to get there,” Ryan said.

“I leave for Honduras now and after the game continue that way to Sydney for the second leg.

“I’m coming back to London through Dubai so I’m literally going around the world, but I’m not complaining by any means.

“It’s part of being an Australian footballer and I wouldn’t change anything to go and represent my country.

“The pinnacle of being a footballer is playing in the Premier League and getting the chance to go to a World Cup, so I’ll focus on recovery now and getting to Honduras in the best shape I can.”

-AAP

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