They did it. The Socceroos have struck three times and are off to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia -- their fourth consecutive Cup.
The game finished 3-1 after a late Honduran goal in the second leg of the World Cup qualifying tie against Honduras in Sydney, which means it was 3-1 overall after the 90 scoreless minutes in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, five days ago.
At halftime, scores were locked 0-0. You just felt in your bones that goals were out there somewhere, but where? For so much of this campaign, Australia had been so wasteful. Remember the Thailand match where we should have scored about a dozen but managed just two?
The answer lay in the desperate but increasingly careless defending of the Hondurans. As Australia dominated the match with more than 70 percent of possession, the Hondurans started to foul the Socceroos.
One foul too many led to the first goal. After a brilliant, scything 52nd minute run by Tom Rogic which took him to the edge of the box, he was inevitably fouled. And then it happened. Captain Socceroo delivered!
Mile Jedinak's firmly struck free kick beat the wall and took a deflection off Honduran defender Henry Figueroa. It went down as an own goal on the score sheet, but it was the skipper's goal in the making.
Moments later, Timmy Cahill almost did what Timmy Cahill has done so often -- the impossible.
Then in the 72nd minute, a Mile Jedinak penalty after a Honduran handball doubled the lead. The game was then Australia's to lose.
The third came from another Jedinak penalty. At that point, the game was no longer ours to lose. It was ours for the keeping.
Honduras started the first half more brightly than they did at home last weekend, when they were strangely listless. But Australia also looked crisp, especially in the midfield.
The first real chance for the Socceroos came via a 13th minute a free kick from near the sideline from Aaron Mooy. Honduran keeper Donis Escober's awkward save bounced tantalisingly back into the box, but eluded the desperate yellow shirts.
Socceroos fans would have to wait until the 37th minute for another serious threat on goal.
Tim Cahill, in the unfamiliar role of provider out on the left wing, fought his way around two Hondurans and delivered to Tom Rogic -- who has scored so many crucial goals for Scottish champions Celtic. Alas, Rogic's strike from close range lacked the power to trouble the keeper.
Overall, chances were few and far between in a first half which you'd have to say Australia dominated. Possession favoured the Socceroos by 73 percent to 27 percent. They also had two corners to nil. But as in previous games in this qualifying campaign, few serious chances were created -- while some key shots lacked the classy finish required.
The Socceroos came out blazing in the second half. Tim Cahill won his team a 48th minute corner. The ball was steered out by Honduras. Another corner. Out again. Another. This time, Aaron Mooy's corner kick curved, sailed right over the goal, and went out.
Wastefulness near goal. The story of so many recent Socceroos matches, and indeed much of this qualifying campaign. Would it ultimately haunt the Socceroos in the final match of a two-year campaign in which we only lost one match, yet so often failed to put teams away?
It would not.
The wastefulness ended when Jedinak scored. And scored again. And again. And somewhere, an Australian travel agent started to think about booking 25 blokes on a plane to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
There were tears of joy for the Socceroos afterwards as the unofficial Australian anthem "Land Down Under" blared around ANZ Stadium. For Honduras, there were tears of a different nature.Suggest a correction