The road to World Cup 2018 is almost at the end of the road and the last 9 teams will book their tickets by mid-November; 2 of those teams will be booking their places via the intercontinental play-offs. Australia and Honduras play in the AFC vs CONCACAF match while New Zealand and Peru lock horns in the OFC vs CONMEBOL tie.
Here we look at 4 players from each side who will be crucial in deciding the two matches in their respective teams’ favor(s).
Romell Quioto: The Houston Dynamo forward’s 60th-minute winner against Mexico on the last match day, helped Honduras reach the playoff rounds. The 26-year old has been exceptional in front of the goal for Los Catrachos during the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers with 6 goals and will be their best bet for goal again against the Aussies.
Alberth Elis: The Houston Dynamo striker has formed a deadly combination with club mate Quioto upfront for Honduras. Although the 21-year old will be missing the home leg due to suspension, he’s sure to play a vital part in the return leg on 15 November.
Boniek García: The Houston Dynamo winger is the 4th most capped player in the La H‘s history and the second most in the current squad. The 33-year old will be tasked with the responsibility of providing balls for his club-mates Elis and Quioto.
Maynor Figueroa: The 34-year skipper is the most capped Honduran player ever. Even though the FC Dallas defender will be out of the home leg due to suspension, he’ll have a huge role to play for Jorge Luis Pinto’s side in the return leg at Sydney.
Trent Sainsbury: The Jiangsu Suning defender is the most capped stopper in the Australian side. The 25-year old former Inter Milan centre-back will be leading the Socceroos back-line in their quest for their 4th straight World Cup final appearance.
Tom Rogic: The Celtic FC midfielder scored 6 goals in the AFC qualifiers including the all-important winner against Saudi Arabia at the Adelaide Oval. The 24-year old has been a revelation under Brendan Rodgers at Celtic Park, and Ange Postecoglou will be counting heavily on the former Futsal star.
Aaron Mooy: The Huddersfield Town midfielder has been one of the major reasons for The Terriers’ wonderful display in the Premier League this season. He is likely to be another very important part of the midfield battle for Australia.
Tim Cahill: The reigning Asian Champions have been handed a massive boost after record goalscorer Tim Cahill was adjudged fit for the crucial double-legged tie. The legendary 37-year old was once again the highest scorer for 2006 pre-quarter finalists in the AFC qualifiers with 11 goals and will be the main bet to once again take the Aussies to the biggest stage.
Winston Reid: The highly experienced West Ham United defender will be leading the New Zealanders against the Peruvians. The 29-year old will be the main sentinel at the back for Anthony Hudson’s side.
Ryan Thomas: The 22-year is hailed as the hottest Kiwi prospect in a long time by many and did justice to the hype with his impressive performance in the Confederations Cup last summer. The speedy winger has a knack for scoring goals and his team will be highly reliant on his performance in an attempt to reach their 3rd ever World Cup finals.
Michael McGlinchey: The 30-year old Wellington Phoenix midfielder will be leading the Oceanian champions’ midfield battle against the South Americans. His prowess of providing crucial balls upfront for the strikers will determine New Zealand’s success in World Cup qualifiers.
Chris Wood: The All Whites’ vice-captain was the highest scorer in the OFC qualifiers with 8 goals. The 25-year old Burnley FC striker will be needing to recreate his recent club form in front of the goal to take his country to the World Cup.
Alberto Rodríguez: The 33-year old will be leading La Roja in the two-legged tie. The former UEFA Cup runners-up with SC Braga will be the main bet to stop Chris Wood from scoring.
Christian Cueva: The São Paulo midfielder scored the all-important winner against Bolivia on match-day 15. He will play a crucial midfield role against the Kiwis in a fight for the midfield.
Yoshimar Yotún: Another midfielder who will be vital for Ricardo Gareca’s men will be the Orlando City midfielder. The winger who can also play as a left-back will be expected to run riots in the New Zealand defence.
Jefferson Farfan: The former PSV and Schalke 04 forward is the most capped player in the Peruvian side. The highest scorer for Peru in the world cup qualifiers needs to be in best possible form to take Peru to the world cup, especially in the absence of all-time highest scorer Paolo Guerrero.
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