2014 World Cup Group E team previews: Honduras
Honduras’ World Cup record is little to shout about before their third appearance at the finals.
“Los Catrachos” have never progressed beyond the first round, have never won a game and they did not score a goal in their last appearance.
Group E rivals France will not fear the Central Americans but Ecuador and Switzerland have reasons to believe that Honduras could defy expectations and reach the last 16 for the first time.
Switzerland exited the 2010 World Cup after a 0-0 draw against Honduras in their final group match while Ecuador know Luis Fernando Suarez well.
The Colombian was hired by Honduras in 2011 after he had led Ecuador to their second consecutive World Cup in 2006. Suarez took Ecuador into the last 16 for the first and only time.
It is easy to overlook Honduras but, while they lack star power, one of their notable strengths is the unity of the team.
Suarez has introduced youth players to freshen up his side and led the under-23 squad to the quarter-finals at the 2012 Olympics.
But more recent results are not so encouraging. In a friendly in March that was supposed to be a source of national pride, Honduras eked out a 2-1 win over Venezuela, but the visitors fielded only a second-string team.
A guide to how well they are progressing will come on June 7, just eight days before their opening match against France in Porto Alegre, when they play England in a friendly in Miami.
England are likely to win that game, but the result will be largely immaterial. What will matter most to Suarez will be how well his team fares against one of the stronger nations in the finals.
Honduras have had to deal with its share of adversity – the country engaged in the brief 1969 “Football War” against El Salvador, which coincided with rioting during a World Cup qualifier between the two countries.
These days the adversity comes in the form of rampant crime and a drug war.
Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate, according to the United Nations, and hardly anyone is immune to the scourge, not even footballers.
Edwin Palacios, the 14-year-old brother of one of the team’s biggest names, midfielder Wilson Palacios, was kidnapped and killed as Palacios’ career in England was taking off and other players have had their brushes with crime.
Five to watch:
Maynor Figueroa, defender (Hull City); age 31; 102 caps. Centre-back for his country who plays at left back for his Premier League club. While known for his versatility, consistency and experience, the veteran has had a rocky campaign at Hull this year and manager Steve Bruce, who brought him to Wigan Athletic in 2008, said his mistakes had cost the team. However he made no mistake with one of the most famous goals in England in the last few years, when he scored from a free kick inside his own half against Stoke City in December 2009.
Emilio Izaguirre, defender (Celtic); age 28; 66 caps. One of Honduras’ strong points is their attacking down the left flank with Izaguirre, a good winger who likes to cut inside into the box but can also deliver a good cross. The Celtic full-back is reported to want to stay with the Scottish Premier League club, where he is under contract until next year. In 2010/11, Izaguirre was named the league’s player of the year.
Wilson Palacios, midfielder (Stoke City); age 29; 92 caps. One of the strongest players in the Honduran side, Palacios has played for several English teams since 2007 and was the product of a £12.0 million (Dh74m) transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. But he seems to have stalled lately at Stoke. This modest man has been described as a water carrier and midfield destroyer rolled into one. His younger brother Edwin, then 14, was kidnapped in 2007 and later found murdered. Another brother, Jerry, plays alongside him in the national team.
Roger Espinoza, midfielder (Wigan Athletic); age 27; 39 caps. Espinoza has lived in the United States since he was 12, emerging from the college game and going on to play at the Kansas City Wizards before moving to England. He chose to play for Honduras rather than the US, where he would have had to wait for eligibility because of citizenship. He is admired in Honduras for his agility, decisiveness and passion. Also a keen snowboarder.
Carlo Costly, striker (Real Espana); age 31; 68 caps. The swift, 1.90 metres (6ft 3ins) tall striker is the team’s top scorer with 30 goals and forms a dynamic attack duo with Jerry Bengtson. But he has been dogged by injuries, like the one that kept him from going to South Africa in 2010. He also sat out the March 5 friendly against Venezuela with a twisted ankle, but Suarez is expecting him to be ready for Brazil. Has moved around a lot in his career to clubs in Poland, Romania, England, Mexico, Greece, the US and China only to return home to play for Real Espana.
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Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM