Dismiss them at your Costly: World Cup Preview - Honduras
It’s back to back appearances for the Hondurans in the World Cup and they will certainly be hoping that the third time is the charm. First round exits in 1982 and 2010 were forgotten about by many but under Colombian coach Luis Fernando Suarez – the man who led Ecuador into the second round in 2006 – there is hope that they may be able to finally get past the group stage.
With that in mind, let’s see what Honduras have to offer:
Given a bye to the third round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region, Honduras were pitted in a tough group with Panama, Canada and Cuba. They only just scraped through that group by a point after a very poor start. They only picked up a point in two games against Panama and a draw in Canada and were only secured of top spot in the group on goal difference because of a thumping 8-1 home win over the Canadians (who missed out on the next round by a point) at home. The final group saw Honduras do just enough to get the third and final automatic qualifying spot ahead of a shockingly poor Mexico side that finished fourth. Their home form was second to none with impressive wins over the two teams above them – Costa Rica and USA – at home. The away form was a little dodgy with a disappointing draw against bottom side Jamaica a low point but two impressive wins in Panama (whom they struggled against in the previous round) and the United States ensuring they got to Brazil. There will be some defensive concerns though as only Jamaica and Panama (the bottom two) conceded more while only the US scored more.
Suarez named his final squad for the tournament in early May with no real surprises. It is a very experienced squad with Real Espana goalkeeper Luis Lopez the only uncapped player picked and Motagua defender Juan Pablo Montes the only player with international experience that has fewer than ten caps. There are familiar faces with Hull’s Maynor Figueroa, Wigan’s Roger Espinoza and Juan Carlos Garcia and Stoke’s Wilson Palacios in the final squad. Here is the complete 23 man squad:
Goalkeepers – Donis Escober (Olimpia); Luis Lopez (Real Espana); Noel Valladares (Olimpia)
Defenders – Brayan Beckeles (Olimpia); Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes); Osman Chavez (Qingdao Jonoon); Maynor Figueroa (Hull City); Juan Carlos Garcia (Wigan Athletic); Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic); Juan Pablo Montes (Motagua)
Midfielders – Marvin Chavez (Chivas USA); Jorge Claros (Motagua); Roger Espinoza (Wigan Athletic); Oscar Garcia (Houston Dynamo); Luis Garrido (Olimpia); Mario Martinez (Real Espana); Andy Najar (Anderlecht); Wilson Palacios (Stoke City); Arnold Peralta (Rangers)
Strikers – Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution); Carlo Costly (Real Espana); Rony Martinez (C.D. Real Sociedad); Jerry Palacios (Alajuelense)
One of the most revered players in Honduras, Costly is their focal point up front. At 6’4″, the striker is a physical presence up top who always gives 100% for the national team. The former Birmingham striker is not a goal shy workhorse up front though. He got 7 goals in qualifying for Brazil and has a record of nearly 1 goal in every 2 internationals (30 in 68 to date). Honduras will be looking to Costly to make the difference up top for them as they look to get past the group stage.
The Hull defender has been one of the most well known Honduras players on British shores for the past few years. Initially a left back, he has since moved inside to centre back to accommodate Emilio Izaguirre but has still performed for his country. Now entering his 30s, Figueroa is an experienced head at the back for the Hondurans with 102 caps for his country and a few years left in him yet. He will have to be at his very best to ensure that Honduras don’t go out with whimper in their group.
The old man of the squad at 37, Honduras captain Valladares is showing no signs of easing up in goals. He impressed at the last World Cup and was named best keeper at the 2011 Gold Cup. The second most capped player ever for Honduras, Valladares still has remarkable agility for someone his age and along with Figueroa, marshals the defence superbly. He will have to be at his very best if Honduras are going to have a chance of progression.
Possible Starting XI
Honduras are not a naturally attacking team as evidenced by their non-scoring performance at the last World Cup. Coach Luis Suarez will more than likely deploy this very defensive minded formation with likely only Costly up top. He will be expected to hold the ball up and hassle defenders but they do have options there with New England Revolution’s Jerry Bengtson able to do the same job. The midfield trio of Espinoza, Martinez and Palacios are reasonably creative but are more likely to win the ball back and get it wide to experienced wingers Chavez and Garcia who will be looked at to supply ammunition for Costly and much needed width for the side. They will be ably supported by Izaguirre and Beckeles at full back who have to cover a lot of ground on the flanks to ensure they help out going forward and don’t conceded too many. The experienced trio of Figueroa, Bernardez and Valladares have nearly 300 caps between them and are the key men for stopping the ball going into the net in what will likely be their last chance at a World Cup.
Honduras have another incredibly tough group in the World Cup with France, Ecuador and Switzerland to contend with. They did draw with the Swiss at the last World Cup but this is a very different Swiss side to what it was 4 years ago. I think that Honduras will be lucky to get a point out of this group at all and will finish bottom of the group, pointless and goalless when they head home.