A country that has been threatening to make an impression on the world stage recently under the stewardship of their astute Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda, Honduras now finally have their chance to impress in another World Cup finals, their first since 1982. A relatively old but battle-hardened squad, this generation of Honduran players boasts high-profile talents such as Wilson Palacios, Hendry Thomas, Maynor Figueroa and David Suazo – all names familiar to even the most casual of European football fans – and should be confident of coming away from their South African experience with their heads held high, even if progression from the group looks to be perhaps an unrealistic ambition.
Although qualification for the World Cup is a superb achievement in itself for Honduras, the campaign which saw them book their place at the tournament was inconsistent and far from convincing. Victories over Mexico and Costa Rica were impressive, but any momentum gained was dissipated by defeats to those same countries, a disappointing away draw against Trinidad and Tobago and a pair of very poor performances against El Salvador, games from which the team was fortunate to emerge with two 1-0 wins. If the Hondurans are to be competitive in South Africa this summer they will need to significantly improve their concentration levels and eradicate the negativity which permeates throughout the team when things are not going their way. When they are playing well Honduras are a formidable outfit, but on a bad day things can unravel alarmingly quickly.
From a tactical perspective, at least, Rueda has organised his team to play a compact interpretation of 4-4-2 with attacking full-backs and two defensively-minded central midfielders in the form of Thomas and Palacios – the Tottenham Hotspur man being the marginally more advanced of the two and given more license to get forward, adeptly linking the midfield to the attack. The vastly experienced duo of Edgar Alvarez and the captain Amado Guevara patrol the flanks and are capable of producing a decent final ball, even if the 34 year-old Guevara does lack for pace. Up front the veteran striker Carlos Pavon, who has the excellent record of 57 goals in 100 appearances for his country, looks set to partner the athletic David Suazo, a player who, despite enduring an underwhelming spell with Inter of late, has shown glimpses of his best form out on loan at Benfica and Genoa over the last two seasons.
Honduras are not anticipated to make much of an impact this summer, but perhaps playing with the freedom that is afforded by being written-off by the media will benefit Rueda’s men and allow them to play their natural game against opposition who will be burdened with far greater expectations. This may not be a team able to match the other sides in Group H in terms of star quality, but underestimate Honduras at your peril, they are certainly no pushovers.
Probable starting XI: Valladares (Olimpia); Sabillon (Hangzhou Nabel Greentown), Chavez (Platense), Izaguirre (Motagua), Figueroa (Wigan Athletic); Alvarez (Bari), Thomas (Wigan Athletic), W. Palacios (Tottenham Hotspur), Guevara (Motagua); Pavon (Real Espana), Suazo (Genoa)
The Road to South Africa: 3rd place in CONCACAF qualifying
World Ranking: 38th