Spain-Honduras preview
© Getty Images

Defeats in their opening Group H games mean that 21 June’s encounter between Spain and Honduras is now vital for both sides’ hopes of reaching the Round of 16 here at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. The European champions were shocked 1-0 by Switzerland, while Los Catrachos lost by the same scoreline against Chile.

The match
Spain-Honduras, Group H, Johannesburg, Ellis Park Stadium, Monday 21 June, 20.30 (local time)

Stopped in their tracks by a magnificent defensive display from Switzerland, Spain will be determined to rediscover the route to goal and justify the favourites’ tag thrust upon them before South Africa 2010. Though coach Vicente del Bosque has so far kept his cards close to his chest, La Roja boss is expected to dispense with one of the two deep-lying midfield men that started against Die Nati and bring in an extra striker or attacking midfielder.

Over in the Honduras camp, supremo Reinaldo Rueda has had to replace key midfielder Julio Cesar de Leon with Jerry Palacios, brother of fellow squad members Wilson and Jhony. Meanwhile, Genoa striker David Suazo’s involvement remains in doubt, though he is making good progress in his recovery from a right-thigh injury. “We were beaten by the best and most difficult team in the group (Chile),” said Rueda, clearly unimpressed by the Spaniards’ opening display. “Honduras are capable of playing better (than against Chile).”

The teams’ only previous meeting came at Spain 1982, when La H were able to hold the host nation to a 1-1 draw in their first group game.

Players to watch
Fernando Torres (ESP) v Wilson Palacios (HON)

At the age of 26, Honduras’ biggest star Wilson Palacios comes into the finals off the back of an impressive season with English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. Though a defensive midfielder with his club, when pulling on the shirt of La Bicolor Palacios is handed the central Americans’ creative baton – one he will need to wield with more aplomb than against Chile if La H are to hurt Spain.

In lethal form for Liverpool this season despite lengthy and frequent spells sidelined through injury, ‘El Niño’ Torres is back to full fitness and could be called upon by Del Bosque to partner David Villa up front. Though unable to break down the rugged Swiss backline when joining the fray off the bench in Durban, Torres will be determined to make his mark should he get a chance against Honduras.

The stat
46 – The number of years to the day since 21 June 1964: the day Spain claimed the UEFA European Championship on home soil to lift their first major trophy. La Roja secured that title thanks to a 2-1 final win over the former Yugoslavia, with the goals coming from Jesus Pereda and Marcelino.

What they said
“I think that we need to give a better account of ourselves. Honduran players have a lot of quality and we have to make the most of that. That’s why I asked our coach if it’d be possible for us to play further up the pitch and send more players forward in attack, though I understand that we mustn’t lose our shape at the back. It’s always important to try and keep a clean sheet,” Sergio Mendoza, Honduras right-back.

“The important thing now is to stay true to our style of play, which is what has made us a winning team. We can’t afford to lose our heads, we need to keep doing what we’re doing and keep believing in what made us favourites. If we do go down, we’ll go down our way, and not because we started doing strange things,” Fernando Torres, Spain striker.

Voice of the fans
“This is a must-win game for Spain if they wish to go far at this World Cup. They’ve got the players and the style, all they’re lacking is that bit of luck which at the moment has been eluding them, but anything can still happen. In my opinion, given that Spain need to win at least 2-0, they’ll send out a very attacking team with Torres and Villa up front from the start and Cesc [Fabregas] in midfield. But there could be a lot of surprises in this game if we don’t get an early goal,” erniode, FIFA.com user (Spain)

The question
Which side will have boosted its chances of reaching the next round come the final whistle?