World Cup 2014

Road to Brazil: Unheralded Honduras believe they can go beyond Round of 16 at World Cup

Luis Fernando Suarez and Honduras

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USA Today Sports

WASHINGTON – Not many people genuinely expect Honduras to make a deep run at this year’s World Cup.

Having only qualified for the tournament on two previous occasions and having never won a game in either appearance, Los Catrachos are minnows on the world stage, the closest thing to a true underdog you can find in this year’s edition.

That perception is of little concern to Honduras head coach Luis Fernando Suárez, who on Wednesday reaffirmed his belief that his squad can not only win matches and advance out of the group stage, but achieve much more.

“What I expect is much more than getting to the Round of 16," Suárez told MLSsoccer.com ahead of his team’s Road to Brazil friendly against Turkey on Thursday evening at RFK Stadium (8 pm ET, beIN Sports, UDN). “I do realize that you’ve got to do things step to step and with clear goals. The first goal is to get to the 16, but beyond that, you obviously start thinking even bigger. Who knows what we can do? As of right now, I’m just keeping these guys focused on getting out of the group stage, which I believe is very possible, and then we’ll go from there."

Honduras will be aided by the fact that they were drawn into what many observers consider the weakest group in the tournament, placed alongside Switzerland, Ecuador and France, a far more favorable draw than the one they received in 2010, where they faced eventual champions Spain and a talented Chilean side. They failed to score a single goal at that tournament.

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With Mexico, the US and Costa Rica all having drawn fairly difficult groups, an argument could be made that the Hondurans have as good a chance of advancing as any other CONCACAF entrant.

"We’re dreaming about the final,” said D.C. United Academy product Andy Najar, now with Belgian club Anderlecht. "All of us have learned to stay positive. It’s not a bad thing to dream, not in soccer. Anything can happen, so right now we’re dreaming about bringing the cup home. Yes, we’re taking things one game at a time, but why wouldn’t we dream about winning it all?”

Optimism has never been an issue for a Honduras team that is rarely short on passion and has earned a reputation over the years as one of CONCACAF’s peskiest opponents. When asked whether a group-stage exit would be a failure, Suárez shook his head and spoke seriously, looking intently at the group of reporters assembled in front of him.

"I don’t use that word, 'failure,'” said a pensive Suárez. "It’s a tricky word, very subjective and open to interpretation. It's certainly possible that we go to Brazil and are eliminated after three games. Out of anybody in our group, we clearly have the least history.

"But I can tell you one thing. I am completely, absolutely sure of this, even in a world where its difficult to be sure of anything. Every Honduran player who takes that field will leave everything on it. They will leave blood on that pitch in every single game trying to advance out of the group stage. If we’re eliminated after three games, it will simply be because our opponent outplayed us, they were better than us on on the day. But never because we didn’t want it enough, or didn’t try hard enough."