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The hole that Cahill leaves in Australian football

 By Mike Wise

Australia faces stern test in Honduras, New Zealand ready to stifle Peru

The FC panel caution Australia not to underestimate a gritty Honduras side in the intercontinental playoff.

The international break is upon us, and we have all the best betting angles covered as the hopes of millions go on the line in this week's last round of World Cup qualifiers.

Honduras vs. Australia

Shivers ran through Australia's football community when Socceroos talisman Tim Cahill went down with an ankle injury in Melbourne City's 1-0 loss to Sydney FC on Friday night.

The 37-year-old will still join the national team squad in Honduras for Friday's match, but his impact may be limited to the dressing room rather than anything on the pitch.

The Socceroos will face a hostile crowd in San Pedro Sula and the ability of Los Catrachos, ranked 69 in the FIFA world rankings, should not be underestimated.

Honduras' strong home record -- two wins, two draws and one loss -- was what helped Jorge Luis Pinto's nab fourth place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal ahead of the United States, and they'll be banking on putting themselves in a strong position ahead of next week's return leg in Sydney.

With the home team pushing on, the Socceroos will sorely miss Mathew Leckie's speed on the counter-attack -- the Hertha BSC star is sitting out a one-match ban. Robbie Kruse is also missing, through injury, meaning that Tomi Juric will be Australia's best hope of grabbing an all-important away goal.

Unibet Odds: Honduras ($2.04) Draw ($3.10) Australia ($4.10)

New Zealand vs. Peru

Peru edged out the likes Ecuador, Paraguay and reigning South American champions Chile for the chance to face New Zealand in the CONMEBOL-Oceania qualifier, and will enter the tie as red-hot favourites to book a place at Russia 2018.

The All Whites should not be underestimated, however, and will look to spring a surprise in Saturday's opening leg in Wellington in front of a full house.

Peru, amped up and ready to seal World Cup qualification for the first time in more than 30 years, will come out of the gates quickly. If the host's defence -- led by West Ham's Winston Reid -- can hold firm, striker Chris Wood has more than enough quality to take any half-chances that fall his way. Meanwhile, up the other end, Peru will be without their main goal-scoring threat with Paolo Guerrero provisionally suspended for 30 days after failing a doping test.

Each team's start, then, will be crucial. The fate of this two-legged playoff could well be decided in the opening 30 minutes.

Unibet Odds: New Zealand ($4.70) Draw ($3.50) Peru ($1.80)

Sweden vs. Italy

Outside of Australasia, there's plenty of football going on, with the pick of Europe's World Cup playoffs pitching Sweden against perennial heavyweights Italy.

Manager Gian Piero Ventura has flattered to deceive during Italy's qualification campaign, with a succession of 1-0 wins against minnows and a 1-1 draw with Macedonia leaving the Azzurri looking less formidable than in years past. Simone Zaza has been recalled to the squad after almost 12-months out in the cold and, while the Valencia striker is in fine form, it's a move that suggests that Ventura still doesn't know what his best XI is.

Like most first-legs of playoffs, Friday's clash at the Friends Arena in Stockholm will be a cagey affair. But with Italy's confidence fragile, it's worth remembering that Sweden have been able to score heavily at home if given the chance -- in their five most recent World Cup qualifiers at home, the Swedes have scored a whopping 18 goals and have conceded just two.

Could we be looking at our first World Cup without Italy since 1958?

Unibet Odds: Sweden ($3.45) Draw ($3.15) Italy ($2.32)

All odds are correct as of Wednesday Nov. 8 at 11am. Gamble Responsibly.


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