Football: Skipper Mile Jedinak's hat-trick fires Socceroos into the World Cup

 Australia’s Mile Jedinak celebrates scoring a goal.
Australia’s Mile Jedinak celebrates scoring a goal.PHOTO: REUTERS

Sydney (AFP) - Captain Mile Jedinak fired a second-half hat-trick as Australia swept into next year's World Cup in Russia with a 3-1 aggregate play-off victory over Honduras in Sydney on Wednesday (Nov 15).

The Aston Villa midfielder's free kick went in off Henry Figueroa on 54 minutes, and he then buried two penalties in the space of 13 minutes before Honduras scrambled a late consolation through Alberth Elis.

The final whistle heralded a massive roar from the 77,000-capacity home crowd at the Sydney Olympic stadium as the Socceroos claimed the penultimate World Cup qualifying spot, following last week's 0-0 first-leg draw.

It will be Australia's fourth consecutive World Cup and fifth overall, and comes in the 22nd game of a mammoth, 29-month qualifying campaign criss-crossing Asia, the Middle East and Central America.

"It's overwhelming to be honest. When you are coaching your own nation, the burden of responsibility is even greater," said Australia coach Ange Postecoglou.

"I'm delighted for everyone - the players, the staff and the organisation. We did it the hard way and it's a credit to every one of them," he added.

The game unravelled for the Central Americans with the Socceroos scoring three times in the last 36 minutes after a goalless first half.

Chances were scarce in a cautious opening period, with the best chance falling in the 37th minute to Celtic's Tom Rogic, whose shot was well saved by goalkeeper Donis Escober.

Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana issued a total of three yellow cards, two to Australia's Matt Jurman and Aaron Mooy, and the other to Maynor Figueroa for a foul on Tim Cahill.

Honduras had to substitute injured Emilio Izaguirre before the half-time whistle with Henry Figueroa.

Australia fielded four across the back, with deep-lying midfielder Jedinak dropping deep at times to bolster their rearguard, but Honduras posed little threat in the first half.

Jedinak broke the deadlock in the 54th minute with a free kick which deflected in off Figueroa. It was eventually credited to him after initially being marked as an own goal.

The goal revved up the Socceroos and the home crowd, and Cahill came close with a looping header but Escober scrambled it away off the woodwork.

Cahill's night was over after 66 minutes, as he was replaced by striker Tomi Juric to a standing ovation from the home crowd in response to his courageous fightback from a recent ankle injury.

The Socceroos tightened their grip when Bryan Acosta was adjudged to have handballed and the referee pointed to the spot.

Jedinak stepped up and rammed home the spot kick - his 17th goal in 73 international games - and Australia were two-up with 18 minutes left.

Substitute Robbie Kruse was then brought down as he closed in on goal and again the referee blew for a penalty, allowing Jedinak to claim his hat-trick with an identical finish from the spot.

Elis gave the Honduran fans something to cheer deep in stoppage time with his consolation goal after a goalmouth melee.