HOUSTON — It’s do-or-die time for Honduras. On Wednesday night at Reliant Stadium, los Catrachos face the unenviable challenge of trying to defeat a very strong Mexico side in order to move on to the Gold Cup final (10 pm ET, Univisión).
Honduras head coach Luis Fernando Suárez clearly knows the importance of this match and admits his charges will have to play at a level they’ve yet to reach in the tournament if they’re to pull off the upset.
“It’s like a final,” the coach said after Tuesday night’s final pregame training session. “One team stays, the other goes on. I think we’re going up against a great, well-worked team with great players.
“If we want to win, we need to do a lot. We need to double our efforts, run more than what we’ve run before, be more attentive that what we’ve been, be more intelligent in the tactical part, and physically give it our all. So if we want to win, we’ve got to do a lot of things.”
When Mexico played against Guatemala, an early goal from los Chapines put El Tri in a bind before Aldo de Nigris and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández scored to give Mexico a 2-1 win. But seeing the desperation and resulting bad play that Mexico showed before de Nigris’ tally settled them down, Honduras may have a little bit of a blue print to go from, but they know they have to take their own play up a notch.
“Mexico are definitely the best team and in their group play, they basically killed everybody,” said Roger Espinoza. “They had a little difficulty with Guatemala. … We just have to come out and play them just like how Guatemala did for a little bet. I mean, we’ve got to play better than Guatemala and better than we did against Costa Rica if we’re going to win.”
Part of Honduras’ key to victory could be the potent striking pair of Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson, each of whom has three goals in the tournament. Despite the fact that two of Bengtson’s goals and all three of Costly’s came in a 7-1 thrashing of Grenada in the group stage, they represent a big threat to the Mexican defense led by Rafa Márquez.
“We know what the coach wants from us and we’ve worked hard,” said Bengtson. “Now we’ve just got to wait for the match and play a good game.”
Much was said during the days leading up to the match of Mexico being allowed to name five reinforcements — three of whom were brought in — to replace the quintet that was suspended for doping. Suárez chimed in his opinion on the matter on Monday, claiming the rules were bent for El Tri.
But with the big semifinal match just hours away, that’s of no importance to the manager anymore. The result, he said, will be based on the product on the field.
“I want to abandon that topic,” he said. “I just believe that one must assume what they must take on inside of the pitch and leave everything on the field. Independently of what happens from [Mexico receiving reinforcements], I won’t give any excuses if we happen to lose.”