MISSION IMPOSSIBLE AWAITS HONDURAS
Honduras are in their second consecutive World Cup, and once again they are major underdogs. They're a spirited group of battlers, but despite all the hard work, they generally lack a difference maker who can decide a game. And the Catrachos, who are bolstered by a strong MLS-based contingent, are not exactly hitting their stride as they head into Brazil with a combination of injuries and out-of-form players.
WORLD CUP PROSPECTS
What gives the Honduras reason to believe in an upset qualification to the Round of 16 is the way the Group E schedule has fallen. France will fully expect to capture all three points in the opener and may overlook the will of the Central Americans, who will certainly see themselves as equals in Matchday 2 against an Ecuadorean side that plays a similar gritty, Latin-American style. And then they finish against a potentially worn-down Swiss team in the finale in the hot and humid climes of the Amazonian region, which will feel just like home.
GROUP E SCHEDULE
STARS TO WATCH
WATCH: Espinoza's Story
Roger Espinoza, M, Wigan Athletic: The former Sporting Kansas City midfield warrior has blossomed into an effective two-way player and one of the best in all of CONCACAF. With not only the ability to break up plays in the center of the field but also terrific passing to set up the attack, Espinoza will likely be the key man for the Hondurans in Brazil.
Carlo Costly, F, Real Espana: The well-traveled veteran striker is indispensible for his national team, ranking second in scoring through qualification and scoring in both qualifiers against Mexico this year. Why is he so dangerous? He has signature moves like the Costlina (watch it here). He's the one player who can make something out of nothing.
Emilio Izaguirre, D, Celtic: Although he typically plays at left back, he's at his best going forward and setting up teammates with crosses. He may face a tricky test in the World Cup in balancing defense and attack, but he has featured on the big stage before.
Luis Fernando Suárez, hired in 2011 after more than 10 years coaching in South America, has helped Honduras continue their rise since the last World Cup. A defender during his playing days in Colombia, Suárez has provided the Catrachos with consistency, employing the same 4-4-2 scheme and a regular starting XI.
Suárez also has experience coaching in the World Cup, as he led Ecuador to their best-ever showing in 2006, when they progressed to the knockout stage. That experience should come in handy when he comes face-to-face with Ecuador in Group E.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
WCQ record: 4-3-3, 15 pts. / 13 GF, 12 GA (3rd place in CONCACAF Hexagonal)
After stumbling through the first half of the Hexagonal, Honduras went unbeaten in their final four games of qualification. The crucial win came in the "Aztecazo," a stunning 2-1 over Mexico at the Estadio Azteca in September 2013 which helped them clinch the region's last automatic spot.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
3rd appearance ('82, '10, '14)
The 2014 tournament will be the third trip to the World Cup for Honduras, after qualifying in both 1982 and 2010. They are still seeking their first win in the World Cup, though they have drawn half of their previous games at the tournament. In 2010, they only conceded three goals in the group stage, but they did not score in any of their games.
Honduras defeated Canada 8-1 in October 2012 to end Canada’s hopes of progressing to the Hexagonal … They split their qualifiers with the USMNT in 2013, winning 2-1 at home in February and losing 1-0 in June at Rio Tinto Stadium … Lost 3-1 to the US national team in the 2013 Gold Cup semifinals … Regulars on the Honduras national team who play in MLS include Boniek García (Houston, right), Jerry Bengtson (New England), Víctor Bernárdez (San Jose), and Marvin Chávez (Chivas USA) … 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year and D.C. United academy product Andy Najar, now at Belgian club Anderlecht, has received more playing time for Honduras in 2013, featuring in both World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup.