Lifestyle & Belief

Honduras World Cup fans have no illusions about winning


Honduras World Cup Team Statistics: Group H

World Ranking: 38

World Cup 2010 results: 0-2-0

Total goals scored: 0

Total goals scored against: 3

Honduras World Cup Schedule: June 16 - Chile (0-1 loss); June 21 - Spain (0-2 loss); June 25 - Switzerland.

Honduras World Cup Soccer 2010

Honduras has a rather dubious distinction. Its most famous “soccer” moment is a war — the four-day Soccer War with El Salvador in 1969 that broke out after a World Cup qualifying match.

Thirty years later Honduras was battling for qualification against the backdrop of a coup that forced the country’s elected president, Manuel Zelaya, to flee the country. When Honduras was playing its critical, last qualifier in El Salvador, Zelaya was presumably watching the game in the Brazilian embassy, where he holed up after sneaking back into the country.

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In an added irony, it was the United States — criticized during the political crisis for not exerting its influence on behalf of Honduras’ democratically elected president — that gifted Honduras its trip to South Africa. Only minutes after Honduras won in El Salvador, the United States scored in the final seconds to salvage a tie against Costa Rica and lift Honduras past the Ticos into the final qualifying spot.

The only previous time Honduras qualified, back in 1982, fans filled the streets of Tegucigalpa and other cites to celebrate. This time the most palpable emotion was relief, a collective recognition that the fractious nation could at least unite behind its soccer team. “We are all fanatics,” said then interim president Roberto Micheletti of the country’s soccer passion. “The national team brings us all together.”

Honduras World Cup History: Despite tying host Spain in its lone Cup appearance in 1982, Honduras didn’t advance to the second round.

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Honduras World Cup Conventional Wisdom: The last-second miracle qualification thrilled Hondurans, but didn’t leave them with too many illusions about their team. Honduras is one of the weakest teams and it drew a tough group (including, after 38 years, a Cup rematch with Spain). Their best hope is that they benefit from other teams taking them too lightly.

Honduras World Cup Team Coach: Reinaldo Rueda

Hondurans believe it required an outsider to instill some discipline in the talented Los Catrachos. Honduras had always boasted firepower, but under Rueda, who had previously coached his native Colombia, the team allowed the fewest goals of any team in its region’s final qualifying round.

Honduras World Cup Team Strength: World-class talent sprinkled through the attack. At home the team thrashed Mexico 3-1 and Costa Rica 4-0 during qualification.

Honduras World Cup Team Weakness: A fractured foot has knocked out Carlo Costly, who netted six goals during qualification, putting more pressure on the underperforming David Suazo and the aging Carlos Pavon to score.

Honduras World Cup Key Player: Wilson Palacios

Palacios, 25, who helped Premier League side Tottenham claim a berth in next season’s Champions League, will have to assume far more responsibilities for Honduras to claim any success. Palacios will quarterback the offense and, above all, needs to forge a connection with Suazo, who is rusty and, presumably, out of sorts after spending most of the season on the Inter Milan bench.