World Cup 2014 Team-by-Team Guide: Honduras have hope
Past tournaments: 1982, 2010
Previous Best: Group Stage – 1982, 2010
How they got here: Honduras surprised everyone by claiming one of the three automatic qualification spaces available to CONCACAF, finishing third behind Team USA and Costa Rica and four points clear of Mexico.
Having been held to a 2-2 by El Tricolor on their own turf, the key fixture came in the return game at the Estadio Azteca, as Mexico suffered only their second defeat in 78 World Cup qualifying fixtures on home soil. It was a result that proved crucial to Honduras’qualification.
Star man: Roger Espinoza (Wigan Athletic)
It’s rumoured that Latics owner Dave Whelan is such a fan of Espinoza that it was Owen Coyle’s decision to bench the midfielder that ultimately led to his dismissal. But while such stories remain gossip, the silky skills of the 27-year-old make him an essential component of an otherwise defensively-minded Honduras side.
Signed off the back of an impressive series of showings for Honduras at the London Olympics, Espinoza’s versatility saw him fill in at left-back during Wigna’s famous 1-0 FA Cup Final victory over Manchester City.
Something of a cup specialist, the former Sporting Kansas City man made more headlines in the FA Cup this season after receiving the award for the best goal of the third round. Played 12 times in qualifying and will be crucial if Honduras are to get on the scoresheet.
Under the radar: Andy Najar (Anderlecht)
A favourite among Honduras fans, after opting to play for the national team rather than the United States – his country of birth – Najar is widely regarded as the most exciting young prospect in Honduran football today.
Signed from DC United by Anderlecht for $3 million last January, the Belgian giants look to have unearthed another gem in the winger, like Espinoza, the 21-year-old was also part of the Honduras team that fared so well at the Olympics two years ago, seeing off a youthful Spain team en route to a narrow quarter-final defeat to Brazil.
Since then Najar has continued to hit the high notes for La Bicolor Olimpica, scoring the winner against Costa Rica in the quarter-finals of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. With two goals in 20 games at Anderlecht this term, Najar will be raring to go in Brazil.
Team nutcase: Maynor Figueroa (Hull City)
Though his time at both Hull and Wigan has been littered with red and yellow cards, alongside MLS youngster Victor Bernandez, the 31-year-old has provided Honduras with a solid defensive base that has helped them get this far.
However he remains the closest thing to a nutcase in the Honduras squad given his truly incredible goal for the Latics against Stoke City a couple of seasons ago.
Taking a freekick from inside his own half, Figueroa spotted Potters keeper Asmir Begovic off his line, launching a sensational strike that remains arguably one of the best goals ever seen in the Premier League.
Both improvisational and inspirational in equal measure, the goal makes him a madcap talent to look out for in Brazil.
How far can they go?
France aside, the draw has been relatively kind to Honduras with ties against Ecuador, a team they drew 2-2 with in a recent friendly and Switzerland, a side they held to a 0-0 draw at the last World Cup.
Admittedly, their chances of qualification still look slim, but after upsetting the odds against Mexico in qualification and Spain at the Olympics, there will be some room for optimism and in manager Luis Fernando Suarez they have a coach used to upsetting the odds, having previously led an unfancied Ecuador team to the last-16 in 2006.
Best bet: Honduras to claim two points @ 7/1
Check out Honduras’ memorable 2-1 away win over Mexico
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