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Kuala Lumpur: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has congratulated Australia for clinching their place in the FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia and hailed the historic five slots AFC teams have won in the final tournament. 

Australia were the stronger side against Honduras in the FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia Asian-CONCACAF Zone Play-Off on Wednesday at the sold-out Stadium Australia in Sydney.

The Australian team secured their qualification with a 3-1 win over the Central Americans.

The first leg on November 10 at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, had finished in a 0-0 draw.

AFC President Shaikh Salman said: “On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to congratulate Australia for qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.

“The AFC’s historic five places at next year’s FIFA World Cup underline the rising standards in Asian football. The hard work in technical development is paying off: our focus on bridging the gap between our Inspiring and Aspiring Member Associations has meant tougher competition, which raises the overall level on the Continent.”

Australia’s captain Mile Jedinak, who came into the play-offs under an injury cloud, scored two penalties and struck a heavily deflected free-kick for his team.

While the first half was tight and tense, the second half was a more open affair as Honduras were forced to chase the game after Australia took the lead.

Honduras created little, but scored a late consolation goal after a scramble in the box. But this was Australia’s night and as the final whistle blew on the longest qualifying campaign ever undertaken, Australia celebrated qualification for their fourth straight FIFA World Cup.

Today’s IntercontinentalPplay-off match completes the AFC teams’ Road to Russia 2018, with IR Iran, Japan, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia having already ensured their slots.

The AFC President went on to say: “It is the AFC’s vision to ensure success for AFC teams and players on the world’s biggest stages. I am confident that our teams, Australia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia, will continue to do our Continent proud next year in Russia.”

Photo: Lagardère Sports