Honduras 2010 World Cup Preview: The Strength Of Latin America

Honduras, qualified for their second World Cup, is drawn into a group where second place is theirs for the taking. All Things Footy's Kevin McCauley looks at Los Catarachos.

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Honduras 2010 World Cup Preview: The Strength Of Latin America

Honduras are hardly a historical power in North American football. The Central American nation of just under eight million people has only qualified for the World Cup once before in its history, in 1982. Their biggest success on the international stage was probably during the controversial Copa América 2001, where Argentina dropped out due to security concerns. An undermanned Honduras team who arrived just one day before the tournament began was able to advance out of their group and upset Brazil in the quarterfinals before finally losing to hosts Colombia. This Honduras side is not like those of the ‘80s and ‘90s, though; three of their players are first team regulars in the English Premier League. They truly are the third most talented team in a CONCACAF region that’s deeper than it was in those days, but they are surely not without shortcomings.

The main strength of the Honduras team is ... strength. These guys are big, physical, imposing players. A lot of their players possess good technical abilities and can pass, but they don't play traditional Latin American football. Guys like Hendry Thomas and Wilson Palacios are bulldozers in the midfield and the likes of Maynor Figueroa and Victor Bernardez are physically imposing defenders. Up top, David Suazo has speed to burn and his potential strike partners are no slugs, either. As a result of this personnel, Honduras plays a brand of physical and direct football that is almost the antithesis of traditional Latin American play. If the fans of their Group H opponents are assuming they're about to play a traditional Latin American side, they better think again.

Honduras have some international quality players at every single position but one, and that is goalkeeper. Noel Valladares is ... well, let's be honest. He's just not that good. He makes silly mistakes, isn't a great shot stopper, and sadly, is their best option. Against a team that is great on set pieces, for this reason, Honduras is in deep trouble. The likes of Figueroa and Bernardez are going to have to be superb to minimize the number of saves Valladares is asked to make. Aside from goalkeeper, Honduras don't have any obvious weaknesses other than depth. They have enough international quality players to fill out a starting lineup, but if any one of Suazo, Palacios, Guevera, Figueroa, or Bernardez go down, Honduras is toast. Their starting XI need to stay healthy and suspension-free for them to have any chance to advance out of the group stages.

How They Got Here

The means by which Honduras have qualified have become the stuff of legend due to one of the greatest radio calls in the history of football. After defeating El Salvador in their final World Cup qualification match, Honduras needed the United States to draw or defeat Costa Rica to finish third in the CONCACAF qualifying hexagonal and automatically qualify for the World Cup. United States left back Jonathan Bornstein scored to equalize in stoppage time of that match, and the rest is history. Honduras is in, and Costa Rica is out after finishing 4th and losing a playoff against Uruguay.

Other than that dramatic finish, Honduras had pretty close to the typical CONCACAF experience in qualifying, winning most of their key home games and dropping points in most of their key road games. Losing at home to the United States complicated matters for them and meant they needed help on the final day, but the result turned out to not hinder their qualifying campaign. Their 3-1 home win against Mexico and their 4-0 home win over Costa Rica were easily their two most impressive results. Unfortunately, one of their most dangerous players from qualifying, Carlo Costly, will not be available for the World Cup due to injury.

Players to Watch

David Suazo is the biggest player to watch for Honduras simply because of concerns over his health. At 100% fitness, Suazo is a true track star, an explosive player who can get by any defense in the world. Unfortunately, it's been almost three years since we've seen a 100% David Suazo. In 2007, he was probably the best player in CONCACAF. In 2010, he's no longer the speed demon he used to be. If Suazo is healthy, he can score against anyone. If Suazo isn't healthy, Honduras are going to have trouble scoring against well-organized defenses.

A lot of eyes will likely be on English Premier League stars Wilson Palacios, Hendry Thomas, and Maynor Figueroa. The latter two saw plenty of struggles this season for their club team Wigan, but Wilson Palacios was one of the key components in Tottenham Hotspur’s ascendency to fourth place in the Premiership and qualification for the UEFA Champions League. As poor as Wigan were this year, Thomas and Figueroa were two of the more consistent players, and the physical presence of all three of these players will be key for Honduras.

How Far They Can Get

A second place finish in Group H and a lucky penalty shootout win in the round of 16 is likely the most that Honduras can hope for. Realistically, this team will be hard-pressed to even get to the round of 16, and if they do, their tournament is likely over at that point. They’re in a group with powerhouse Spain, a well-organized Switzerland team, and a Chile side with an impressive attacking flare. Honduras as a unit have less of a pedigree at the highest levels of football than all of their opponents, so it’s difficult to predict that they will advance. If they’re going to, it will be because of muscle in the midfield, a speedy, healthy Suazo, and minimal mistakes from Noel Valladares.

Schedule

DateOpponentLocation
June 16 Chile Nelspruit
June 21 Spain Johannesburg (Ellis Park)
June 25 Switzerland Bloemfontein

Final Roster

Goalkeepers
PlayerAge*CapsGoalsClub (Country)
Canales, Ricardo 28 3 0 Motagua (Honduras)
Escobar, Donis 30 11 0 Olimpia (Honduras)
Valladares, Noel 33 72 0 Olimpia (Hondruas)
Defenders
PlayerAge*CapsGoalsClub (Country)
Bernardez, Victor 28 42 2 Anderlecht (Belgium)
Chavez, Osman 25 28 0 Plantense (Honduras)
Figueroa, Maynor 27 67 2 Wigan Athletic (England)
Garcia, Oscar Boniek 25 44 2 Olimpia (Honduras)
Izaguirre, Emilio 24 41 1 Motagua (Honduras)
Mendoza, Sergio 29 48 1 Motagua (Honduras)
Palacios, Johnny 23 5 0 Olimpia (Honduras)
Sabillion, Mauricio 31 25 0 Hangzhou Nabel Greentown (China)
Midfielders
PlayerAge*CapsGoalsClub (Country)
Alvarez, Edgar 30 48 3 Bari (Italy)
de Leon, Julio Cesar 30 76 15 Torino (Italy)
Espinoza, Roger 23 11 3 Kansas City Wizards (United States)
Guevara, Amado 34 134 29 Motagua (Honduras)
Nunez, Ramon 25 18 3 Olimpia (Honduras)
Palacios, Wilson 25 70 4 Tottenham Hotspur (England)
Thomas, Hendry 25 41 2 Wigan Athletic (England)
Turcios, Danilo 32 83 7 Olimpia (Honduras)
Forwards
PlayerAge*CapsGoalsClub (Country)
Martinez, Walter 28 35 11 Marathon (Honduras)
Pavon, Carlos 36 100 57 Real Espana (Honduras)
Suazo, David 30 52 16 Genoa (Italy)
Welcome, Georgie 25 14 4 Motagua (Honduras)

* - age as of June 11, 2010

Much more David Suazo than Noel Valldares, Kevin McCauley's writing can be found at All Things Footy. McCauley will be contributing to SB Nation soccer during the build-up to South Africa 2010.

For more World Cup coverage, visit the Dirty Tackle blog from our partners at Yahoo!

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