One shouldn’t underestimate the significance of Honduras qualifying for its second consecutive World Cup. Honduras is a proud nation with a deep love of the beautiful game. But it’s a tiny Central American country sandwiched between Guatemala and Nicaragua, and with a population of just over eight million, it doesn’t have the same resources or potential player pool as CONCACAF rivals Mexico and the United States. But thanks to a firm commitment to youth development, Los Catrachos find themselves at the big dance again, looking to improve on their group-stage exit last time around.
Goalkeepers: Noel Valladares (Olimpia), Donis Escober (Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real Espana)
Defenders: Brayan Beckeles (Olimpia), Arnold Peralta (Rangers), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Juan Carlos Garcia (Wigan), Maynor Figueroa (Hull), Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes), Osman Chavez (Qingdao Jonoon), Juan Pablo Montes (Motagua)
Midfielders: Luis Garrido (Olimpia), Roger Espinoza (Wigan), Jorge Claros (Motagua), Wilson Palacios (Stoke), Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo), Andy Najar (Anderlecht), Mario Martinez (Real Espana), Marvin Chavez (Colorado Rapids)
Forwards: Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution), Jerry Palacios (Alajuelense), Carlo Costly (Real Espana), Rony Martinez (Real Sociedad)
Luis Fernando Suarez, who previously coached Honduras’ under-23 side, took over in 2011, bringing a calming influence to a chaotic team. His conviction to promote youth was on full display in qualification. The youngsters rewarded his faith by punching his ticket to Brazil.
4-4-2: (GK) Valladares – (D) Peralta, Bernardez, Figueroa, Izaguirre – (M) Garcia, Garrido, Palacios, Espinoza – (F) Bengtson, Costly
Group E schedule
June 15: vs. France in Porto Alegre
June 20: vs. Ecuador in Curitiba
June 25: vs. Switzerland in Manaus
How they qualified
After sleepwalking and doing the bare minimum to win its semifinal round group, Honduras stepped it up in the Hex with a series of memorable and steady performances, including a historic win away to Mexico. That victory sparked a four-game unbeaten run by the Hondurans in their final matches, solidifying them as the third-best team in the CONCACAF region.
Width. Emilio Izaguirre’s forages down the left flank will be crucial to Honduras’ success. He is defensively sound with a wicked left boot. On the other side, Anderlecht sensation Andy Najar is a 20-year old speedster who can hurt teams on the break.
Attack. Honduras could struggle to score against their high-class opponents. Jerry Bengston, who has impressed in spells, is their most prolific striker but he requires service, which will be on short supply when his team is defending in numbers.
Players to watch
Wilson Palacios: The Stoke City grafter is Honduras’ most important player. Palacios fulfills an important role in midfield, breaking up opposition’s play and setting up his own team’s attacking moves.
Jerry Bengtson: He netted nine goals for his country in the qualifying campaign, ranking himself among the top scorers in CONCACAF.
Maynor Figueroa: The Wigan defender leads the backline and will be expected to guide his less-experienced colleagues. He also has a knack for scoring some spectacular goals. One of those trademark strikes wouldn’t go amiss against, say, France.
Can the strikers deliver? Honduras’ 8-1 win over Canada inflated their goal tally from qualifying and a reliance on Bengston and Carlos Costly to find the back of the net consistency could prove costly. The pair scored 16 of their 25 goals in qualifying.
Prospects in Brazil
While making it to the world stage is a grand achievement for a country of Honduras’ size, they won’t settle at just being there. Suarez’s team is hard to break down and will be capable of providing a stern examination of Switzerland and Ecuador. Los Catrachos will have a go at things in an attempt to make it out of the group. One feels they might just fall short of that goal.
World Cup history
Honduras is set to play in its second-straight World Cup, which is quite the achievement considering that they were in the international wilderness between 1982 and 2010. Getting out of the group stage would be a major accomplishment, as it would represent their best-ever showing at the tournament.
• 1930 to 1958 – Did not enter
• 1962 to 1974 – Did not qualify
• 1978 – Withdrew
• 1982 – First round
• 1986 to 2006 – Did not qualify
• 2010 – First round
Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States