Aston Villa midfielder Mile Jedinak netted a second half hattrick to help Australia book their place at next year’s World Cup with a 3-1 win over ‘stubborn’ Honduras in their second leg intercontinental playoff clash.
The tie was firmly in the balance after the first leg in Honduras ended in a goalless draw and the same scenario was witnessed in the first half of the second leg before Jedinak’s timely intervention.
The former Crystal Palace player scored the opening goal nine minutes after the interval as his freekick deflected in off Honduras defender Maynor Figueroa. He thereafter netted his brace from the spot in the 72nd minute before completing his hattrick from the spot again to seal Australia’s place in Russia 2018 with two minutes left on the clock. There was still time for the visitors to grab a consolation goal through Houston Dynamo forward Alberth Elis.
With the 3-1 aggregate victory, Australia have now qualified for their 5th FIFA World Cup and a 3rd appearance at the tournament under the Asian Confederation. The first two editions they qualified for (1974 and 2006) were under Oceania.
Australia are the 31st country to qualify for next year’s FIFA World Cup with one spot left to be filled. Peru and New Zealand will battle each other in Lima later on Wednesday in their second leg playoff clash to determine who will qualify with the tie firmly deadlocked at 0-0 from the first leg.