Honduras defender Figueroa confident of beating U.S.
LONDON -- Honduras defender Maynor Figueroa knows it's crucial for his country to beat the United States next month in its bid to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1982.
The Central American nation is third in its qualifying group behind the United States and Mexico. The top three teams automatically advance, and the fourth moves on to a playoff with the fifth-placed team from South America.
Figueroa, who plays in England for Premier League club Wigan, said he's confident Honduras can qualify. The team will play the United States on Oct. 10 at Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula, where Honduras has won all its qualifying games. Honduras then plays its last qualifier is at El Salvador four days later.
"We have a big chance," the 26-year-old Figueroa said. "I believe the reason that we're in a position today to qualify for the World Cup is by taking advantage of the atmosphere of the stadium, and we hope against the United States that things will also turn out well for us."
It has been a long wait for Honduras since it played in its first World Cup. Despite finishing at the bottom of its group with two points, Honduras held hosts Spain to a 1-1 draw and was praised for playing with a well-organized and clever style.
Honduras has bounced back from a disastrous qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup when it failed to reach the final qualifying stage for the first time.
Figueroa credits the transformation to the discipline of the Colombian coaching staff led by Reinaldo Rueda, who was given the job in the middle of the 2006 campaign, and more Honduran players with clubs in Europe.
Honduras midfielder Hendry Thomas also plays for Wigan, and Wilson Palacios was with the club before moving to Tottenham. Striker David Suazo plays for Inter Milan.
Figueroa is aware of the impact another World Cup would have for the country, the second poorest in Central America.
"It will be something marvelous ... to achieve this feat and be part of it," he said. "I believe it will be something that will go down in the history books."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press