MALACCA, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 05: Aaron Mooy of Australia in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Playoff match between Syria and the Australia Socceroos at Hang Jebat Stadium on October 5, 2017 in Malacca, Malaysia. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

At least 180 minutes of football is all that separates Australia and Honduras from yet another World Cup appearance and the riches to go with it.

Despite this, the build up to the game has been – shall we say – odd.

On this side of the Pacific, the build up has hardly been on the game itself. Rightly or wrongly, much of the local media coverage has either focused on San Pedro Sula’s former reputation as the murder capital of the world or coach Ange Postecoglou’s future after the tie.

On the other side of the Pacific, in a country where football means so much to so many people, media coverage has been about Australian media coverage, alongside a healthy smattering of supremely confident Honduran heavies predicting a comfortable win for Los Catrachos against the “simple” Australians.

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that there is a game going on.

And a hugely important game at that.

Back to the football, both nations have developed somewhat of an appetite for World Cups, with Australia gunning for its fourth consecutive appearance and the Hondurans their third.

The Socceroos are ranked 26 places ahead of their Central American opponents and the numbers say the Australians should book their tickets to Russia, but in a nation as mad about football as Honduras, they will do well to get a result in the heat, the humidity and in front of a boisterous home crowd.

Australia could enter the tie effectively a man down with talismanic forward Tim Cahill in a race against time to be fit for the first leg.

They will already be without Mathew Leckie and Mark Milligan as the pair are suspended for the first leg.

There are doubts Tom Rogic could handle the conditions and the rough and tumble play the Hondurans have been known for in this qualifying campaign.

But to get any result, the Socceroos must first look closer to home.

The side is only in this position – having to compete in the intercontinental playoff – because of extreme wastefulness and complacency over the course of their qualifying.

Both matches against Thailand and having only just scraped through against the Syrians stand out as low points in the campaign.

The three-at-the-back system Postecoglou has employed, while it has created numerous chances against lowly Asian sides, it has left the team horribly exposed in defence at times.

The Socceroos have only kept one clean sheet in 12 months of football.

Honduras, on the other hand, have developed a reputation for being a highly physical side.

The Los Catrachos’ campaign has been criticised by other CONCACAF nations for sometimes pushing the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable.

The Socceroos will need to keep their eyes on Romell Quioto, who has been a star in their quest for World Cup glory so far.

Quioto has scored six goals in the qualification campaign, and is comfortably the side’s most dangerous attacker.

He took to the media to suggest his side will have no problem beating the Socceroos.

“I’ve had the chance to watch Australian videos and I recognise some of their players,” he told Honduran newspaper La Prensa.

“I feel that I have personally faced tougher teams, other more complicated players. I don’t know how much Australia has.”

Meanwhile, former Socceroos boss Rale Rasic has given a less-than-optimistic assessment of Australia’s chances and took aim at Postecoglou’s managerial mettle.

“We need a miracle in Honduras and a victory in Sydney,” he told FourFourTwo.

“Ange does not think of football the way I do. We have totally different philosophies. I would lock up the gate in Honduras and fight for my life and I would choose the men who could fight the battle.

“In his three years he did not want to play football with discipline and order and you can’t play with discipline and order against Honduras in one game. You have to practice that.

“When I was coach of the Socceroos I practised that for three years to get that right.”

In good news for both teams, FIFA has (rather arbitrarily) wiped all yellow cards accrued in qualifying matches so far, meaning all players will be safe in the knowledge that earning a yellow in this match will not rule them out of the return leg in Sydney next week.

As the date with destiny draws closer, Australia must approach the tie with the “winner-takes-all” mentality drilled into their heads.

It would be disastrous to go into either game thinking qualification was secure.

It’s exactly what happened to the USA, and in a twist of fate, exactly how the Hondurans have gotten here.

Match details:
Honduras vs Australia
Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Friday, 11 November 2017, 3:30PM (local)/Saturday, 12 November 2017, 8:30AM (AEDT)

Australia vs Honduras
Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia
Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 8:00PM AEDT