Jun 3, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT
Getting to know… Honduras
Having qualified for its second consecutive World Cup, Honduras has entrenched itself with Costa Rica at the second tier of CONCACAF’s totem pole. Beyond the United States and Mexico — teams that have become habitual qualifiers for FIFA World Cups — the Catrachos are as strong as any nation in CONCACAF, a status affirmed by three straight appearances in the Gold Cup semifinals. With wins in “The Hex” over North America’s big two, the gap between Honduras and its region’s powers continues to narrow.
Historically, Honduras has been a relative non-factor at World Cups. In six games over two appearances (1982, 2010), the nation has three draws, three losses, and has only scored two goals. As much as reaching the second round is every team’s goal, at this summer’s tournament, making strides in the win column will be Honduras’s ultimate goal.
Record in qualifying
Honduras opened World Cup qualifying with a win over the United States, but road losses to Panama and Costa Rica brought the team back down to Earth. In their seventh match of CONCACAF’s final round, Honduras scored a historic 2-1 in Mexico City, beginning the four-match unbeaten run that secured qualification for Brazil.
What group are they in?
Though Honduras has the easiest draw of any of CONCACAF’s teams, the Catrachos are still Group E’s underdogs. Switzerland is the packet’s seeded team, but France has its highest profile. And in South America, Ecuador may benefit from a familiarity its rivals lack. Most prognosticators will have Honduras at the bottom of Group E, and with good reason.
15 June, 15:00, Porto Alegre – France vs. Honduras
20 June, 13:00, Curitiba – Honduras vs. Ecuador
25 June, 16:00, Manaus – Honduras vs. Switzerland
Star player: Carlo Costly
With plans to play a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders, Luis Fernando Suárez is putting a lot of faith in forwards Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson., but with Bengtson getting little time with his club team (MLS’s New England Revolution), Costly may have to carry the scoring load. With three goals in four games for Real España before departing for national team camp, the 31-year-old was producing domestically, and having scored 31 times for the Catrachos, the one-time Houston Dynamo forward will be his team’s best bet to do something it couldn’t do in 2010: Score a goal.
Manager: Luis Fernando Suárez
The man who led Ecuador to its best World Cup performance (2006) has been brought in to do the same with Honduras, something that’s led him to look at 96 players since being hired in 2011. Ultimately, Suárez has settled into an approach similar to countryman Reinaldo Reuda – the coach who led the team into World Cup 2010. Keeping the spine of the team (goalkeeper Noel Valladares, defender Maynor Figueroa, and midfielder Wilson Palacious) in place, Suárez is hoping South Africa’s backbone will produce better results in Brazil.
Secret weapon: Boniek Garcia
In North America, the Dynamo designated player is no secret, but for Honduras’s opposition in Group E, a midfielder that’s never played outside of CONCACAF could prove a surprise. Versatile, athletic, and able to run forever, Garcia’s capable of providing a moment’s magic that could turn a flat group stage match. If past World Cups are any indication, there will be a couple of those in Brazil.
Prediction: The Catrachos is capable of springing a surprise, but that’s still unlikely. Set to be underdogs in each of its matches, Honduras can still exceed expectations by avoiding another winless tournament.
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