New Delhi: Australia captain Mile Jedinak scored a second-half hat-trick to help Socceroos beat Honduras 3-1 in the second leg of their inter-confederation playoff on Wednesday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium to qualify for next year`s World Cup in Russia.
Aussies dominated their visitors from the very outset, but were made to wait until the 53rd minute to open the scoring. And it came thanks to a lucky deflection from captain Jedinak's free-kick.
It was followed by a 72nd strike from the 33-year-old, who managed to beat a diving Donis Escober to find the back of the net in the bottom left corner.
The Aston Villa mid-fielder completed his hat-trick in the 85th minute with a penalty conversion after Honduras defender Jerry Palacios indulged in a two-footed challenge inside the box to floor substitute Robbie Kruse.
Interestingly, in the run-up to the second-leg qualifier, Honduras had complained of 'espionage', and posted social media footage of a drone flying above the stadium during one of their training sessions.
Aussies thus became the 31st team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. This is their fourth successive finals.
Australia, competing in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualification, finished third, behind Japan and Saudi Arabia in the Group B.
In the confederation play-off against Syria – Group A third-place team, Aussies won 3-2 on aggregate after 1-1 draw in the first leg and 2-1 win the second leg in extra time.
Their qualification campaign has already been hailed as one epic journey, in which Ange Postecoglou’s outfit played 22 games over 884 days and travel more than 250,000 kilometres to 22 countries.
Honduras finished fourth, behind Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama in the The North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) qualification.
The first-leg match last week at San Pedro Sula ended in a goalless draw.
The final 32nd team will be decided from the New Zealand-Peru match.
Here are the qualified teams:
1. Russia (Hosts)
2. Brazil (CONMEBOL winners)
3. Iran (AFC Third Round Group A winners)
4. Japan (AFC Third Round Group B winners)
5. Mexico (CONCACAF Fifth Round winners)
6. Belgium (UEFA Group H winners)
7. South Korea (AFC Third Round Group A runners-up)
8. Saudi Arabia (AFC Third Round Group B runners-up)
9. Germany (UEFA Group C winners)
10. England (UEFA Group F winners)
11. Spain (UEFA Group G winners)
12. Nigeria (CAF Third Round Group B winners)
13. Costa Rica (CONCACAF Fifth Round runners-up)
14. Poland (UEFA Group E winners)
15. Egypt (CAF Third Round Group E winners)
16. Iceland (UEFA Group I winners)
17. Serbia (UEFA Group D winners)
18. Portugal (UEFA Group B winners)
19. France (UEFA Group A winners)
20. Uruguay (CONMEBOL runners-up)
21. Argentina (CONMEBOL 3rd place)
22. Colombia (CONMEBOL 4th place)
23. Panama (CONCACAF Fifth Round 3rd place)
24. Senegal (CAF Third Round Group D winners)
25. Morocco (CAF Third Round Group C winners)
26. Tunisia (CAF Third Round Group A winners)
27. Switzerland (UEFA Second Round winners)
28. Croatia (UEFA Second Round winners)
29. Sweden (UEFA Second Round winners)
30. Denmark (UEFA Second Round winners)
31. Australia (CONCACAF v AFC play-off winners)