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Team preview: Honduras

June 4, 2010
Latham By Brent Latham
Special to ESPN.com
(Archive)

The Catrachos represent a nation thrilled to be participating in its second World Cup, and first since 1982. Honduras qualified on the last day of CONCACAF's hexagonal, thanks to a win over El Salvador which lifted it past Costa Rica into third place.

But Honduras' play in qualifying was, as usual, hot and cold, and results in recent friendlies have not been inspiring. Honduras lost with its full squad in Turkey in March, and more recently dropped a decision at home to Venezuela. There are numerous doubts for the Central Americans, including a thin attack and flimsy defense. Despite the qualifying success, this team is also mostly past its prime, with a number of key players on the wrong side of 30.

Honduras can dream of advancing from Group H only if it can do everything perfectly against Spain, Chile and Switzerland. A more realistic goal would be a first victory in World Cup play, after two ties in the 1982 campaign.

Coach: Reinaldo Rueda

A Colombian by birth, Rueda was made an honorary citizen of Honduras after guiding the team to the World Cup, and would gain even more renown by leading the team to anything noteworthy in South Africa. Rueda and Honduras are attack-oriented by nature, but the coach will need to come up with a game plan to shut down group opponents.

Style of play

Honduras historically favors a wide-open brand of attacking soccer, and this team doesn't break that mold. But that style has been more suited to the younger, more athletic Honduran teams of the past, replete with offensive weaponry. As this team gets numbers forward in attack, its weak point is more likely to be exposed -- the inexperienced back four, which tends to give opponents plenty of space to play.

Players to watch

1. Wilson Palacios. Honduras' only proven world-class player, Palacios will lead the midfield and have a large role in breaking up opposing possession and launching the Honduran attack.

2 Carlos Pavon. Along with midfielder Amado Guevara, Pavon is the team's veteran leader. A mercurial figure throughout the recent history of the Honduran national team, Pavon is capable of outstanding runs of scoring form, but has also been the author of more than his share of jaw-dropping misses, often at crucial moments, during more than a decade with the national team. If the veteran can find a rich vein of form in South Africa, the team's chances improve significantly.

3. David Suazo. Suazo was on the verge of becoming a world-class striker when he signed for Inter Milan in 2007, but injuries have decimated his career. But Suazo is back just in time for the World Cup, and in the absence of Carlo Costly to injury, will be heavily relied on alongside Pavon in attack.

Who's hot

Maynor Figueroa. The Premier League left back is the strong link in his country's back four, and will be needed for leadership, probably in the center of the defense. Figueroa had a standout season for Wigan, and has been linked to much bigger clubs.

Who's not

Carlo Costly. A key member of the Catrachos' qualifying campaign with six goals, Costly was injured in the final game of his Romanian club team's season, ruling him out of the World Cup.

Three key questions

1. Are the Hondurans satisfied just being at the World Cup? So much has been made of Honduras' return to a World Cup after such a long and painful absence that there is a real danger of the team resting on its laurels -- something recent performances suggest might already be happening.

2. Which Honduran team will turn up? Honduras runs about as hot and cold as it comes in international soccer. It has been turning cold since the end of last year's qualifying campaign. A cold Honduran team will get embarrassed at the World Cup.

3. Can they do the small things? The Catrachos have the talent to keep up with Chile and Switzerland in their group. But does their team -- particularly the contingent that has spent an entire career in Honduras -- have the professionalism to sustain 90 minutes at the highest level without any lapses in concentration?

Projected lineup

G Donis Escober, Olimpia (Honduras)
D Mauricio Sabillon, Motagua (Honduras)
D Victor Bernardez, Anderlecht (Belgium)
D Maynor Figueroa, Wigan (England)
D Emilio Izaguirre, Motagua (Honduras)
M Wilson Palacios, Tottenham (England)
M Edgar Alvarez, Bari (Italy)
M Julio Cesar de Leon, Torino (Italy)
M Amado Guevara, Motagua (Honduras)
F David Suazo, Genoa (Italy)
F Carlos Pavon, Real Espana (Honduras)