Beaten but not bowed. A cliche perhaps, but that is precisely how Honduras left the field after their slender 1-0 loss to Argentina in their FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 Group A opener. Expected to suffer a punishing loss, Los Catrachos took their South American opponents to the wire and spurned a number of opportunities to break the deadlock themselves. Forward Antony Lozano has surely given his Argentinian markers some frightful flashbacks since.
Despite the frustration of the result itself, the Honduran captain took only positive impressions from the match and hopes that the promise shown against Argentina can be translated into goals against Nigeria on Tuesday. "We're disappointed with the result but we were equal to them for the whole game and we created chances because we kept ourselves well organised," explained the sole striker fielded by coach Eugenio Umanzor in that opening encounter. "Unfortunately, they scored first and after that the weather conditions and the state of the pitch deteriorated, which made it impossible for us to come back. We've learnt the lesson and against Nigeria we'll have to score our first few chances."
Motivation and concentration
The Olimpia Tegucigalpa marksman will be passing that message on to his team-mates and he takes his role as captain very seriously, despite his somewhat timid manner. "I'm very proud of this responsibility and the trust the coach showed me by handing me the armband," explained the youngster, who dreams of one day signing for Manchester United, Chelsea or Real Madrid. "Even if I don't speak much away from the pitch, on it I always try to lead by example. I try to make sure that my team-mates never lose their motivation or their concentration."
Los Catrachos will need plenty of both if they hope to defeat Nigeria in front of their own fans at the National Stadium in Abuja. "That doesn't frighten us; we're used to the pressure," added Lozano, nicknamed Choco by his colleagues. "On the contrary, it spurs us on even more. Nigeria are a very good team who attack all the time and who'll also be playing in front of their supporters, but we're ready and we have enough quality to win this match."
Victory would kick start the Central American side's bid for qualification, a goal they have never lost sight of in spite of being drawn in the same section as heavyweight trio Germany, Argentina and Nigeria. "We know we're in the toughest group but that doesn't mean we feel like we're already beaten," explained Lozano, who counts himself as a huge fan of Ronaldo - "the real one, 'Gordito', not Cristiano."
"We're taking things step by step with the objective of qualifying for the second round," he added. "Our first match confirmed that we're fully capable of that. We know we have the quality to have a good tournament, thanks above all to our team spirit. We love to have the ball at our feet, we rely on our technique and our pace and we always try to play rather than wait for our opponents."
Honduras have also drawn confidence from the senior side's successful campaign to reach the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ South Africa. "That qualification made us very happy; it was really something to celebrate. Everyone hopes that Honduras will do well in South Africa, but right now it's our turn to defend our country's colours at a World Cup. We know that everyone in Honduras is following our results, encouraging us and supporting us. We have to do everything to make them happy in return."