Honduras: Beautiful UnderdogsBy: Juan Mesa
HOW DID THEY GET HERE: Honduras was the main beneficiary of México’s qualifying debacle. They ended third in CONCACAF’s hexagonal, which gave them a direct ticket to Brazil. Along the way, they earned their first Aztecazo by beating El Tri 2-1—their only away victory during the final round of the qualification.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: Led by Premier League veteran Wilson Palacios, Honduras’s midfield is all speed and dynamics. Palacios and his partner in crime, Roger Espinoza, keep soccer to its basics: they recover the ball and rapidly pass it to speedy wingers Andy Najar, Mario Martínez and Houston Dynamo’s Óscar Boniek García. Their counterattacks find the net thanks to the effective duo of Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson, players who seem to gain an incredible faith in themselves when they wear the bicolor.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: In the past, Honduras suffered because of the slowness of its defenders, but now they have found fresh-and-fast legs in Arnold Peralta, Emilio Izaguirre and Maynor Figueroa. The zonal-defensive-style implemented by coach Luis Fernando Suárez demands a high level of concentration, something the team was notably lacking during the qualification round: they received 12 goals against, slightly better than the eliminated Panama and Jamaica teams.
WORLD CUP CHANCES: The Central America representatives seem to be the underdogs in Group E (which also includes France, Switzerland and Ecuador), but there is room for moderate hope of moving on to the round of 16. Their debut against France seems impossible—but the French may extend their soap opera season in Brazil. Then comes Ecuador, a team they recently tied with 2-2 in a friendly. And their third scheduled match is against Switzerland, which they tied with 0-0 during the 2010 World Cup. But make no mistake: if Honduras gets to the round of 16 it will be more than enough for a new national holiday.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The semifinal series of the North American qualification for the 1970 World Cup between Honduras and El Salvador coincided with riots and political tension between both countries. The four-day war that ensued was known as the “Football War.” El Salvador won on the field and ended up going to Mexico.
IF THEY WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: “Underdog” by Imagine Dragons. They have nothing to lose, and can succeed only by understanding and loving their condition.