SYDNEY • Australia will have a recovery advantage over Honduras in their World Cup intercontinental play-off thanks to a US$900,000 (S$1.2 million) chartered flight, Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury said yesterday.
They were at the airport about two hours after a fighting 0-0 draw in San Pedro Sula on Friday and arrived home yesterday, giving them an extra day to recover before Wednesday's return leg in Sydney.
The Honduras squad are taking a series of commercial flights via the United States, with the majority of the players flying in business class, leaving them only around 60 hours to acclimatise and prepare for their crunch match.
"Recovery time is a very important thing in international football, especially over such distances," defender Sainsbury told reporters upon arrival.
"Every little bit counts in such big games. Honduras still have a long way to go. We're already here and we can recover and be fresh.
"That's an advantage for us and we'll take every little advantage we can get at the moment."
The players as well as coach Ange Postecoglou stretched out in the 28 business class seats at the front of Qantas' Airbus A330.
The price of Australia's chartered flight from Honduras back home.
Time difference between Honduras and Australia.
According to Australian media who flew with the team, Football Federation Australia coughed up all the costs of the flight but US$150,000 from Fifa, who provided travel subsidies for both teams. ABC news reported that the flight cost about A$250,000 more than taking a commercial option.
Socceroos sports scientist Craig Duncan was given free rein over the plane's temperature, while setting meal times and sleep patterns to aid the team's recovery.
A makeshift treatment room was set up on board dispensing massages on sore bodies, while staff got to work on their analysis on laptops and review highlights ahead of the home leg.
No detail was spared to make sure that the the benefits of their recovery phase were maximised.
The cabin lights were on for the first few hours and players wore special white glass that project light onto their face to help their body beat jet lag caused by the 17-hour time difference.
The second half of the trip was set up so that the Socceroos had as much sleep as possible.
Now with home and fitness advantages, Sainsbury, one of the heroes in the composed draw in Honduras, said the Socceroos had the tactical edge in the match that will decide who makes next year's World Cup Finals in Russia.
"If we can play any team back-to-back we get to know what they're like and their tendencies," added the 25-year-old who plays for the Jiangsu Suning in China.
"So it's an advantage coming back here on home soil after a good performance away. I can't see them changing many different things. Tactically they might tweak a few things but we'll be ready."
The Australians could also have several fresh players for the second leg in Sydney.
Mathew Leckie and Mark Milligan are available after both were suspended for the first leg, while Germany-based Robbie Kruse could return from injury.
The extra recovery time also gives team talisman Tim Cahill a greater chance of battling back from ankle trouble to play.
"He's one of those people who can psyche you up before a game," Sainsbury added of Cahill, who has 50 goals for Australia.
"He's one of those people who's always special to have around - that's why he's 'Super' Timmy Cahill.
"The next step now will be to beat this Honduras team and then have a really good World Cup."