Switzerland-Honduras preview

Switzerland and Honduras go into Friday’s final Group H fixture with the same objective: both need a win to stand a chance of progressing. The central Americans are bottom of the section with no points so far, but can still make the Round of 16 if they beat the Swiss, Spain lose to Chile, and the requisite number of goals are scored and conceded to nose the Hondurans in front of the Spanish on goal difference.

Switzerland know even more precisely what they need. A victory over the Hondurans by two clear goals would see them into the last sixteen, regardless of the outcome between the European champions and the South Americans. A draw might yet be enough for the Swiss, should Spain lose for the second time at the finals. However, relying on that outcome may be foolhardy.

The game
Switzerland–Honduras, Group H, Mangaung/Bloemfontein, 20.30 (local time)

The Swiss are definitely without first-choice central defender Philippe Senderos. The Everton stopper is still sidelined with an ankle injury sustained in the victory over Spain, but may be fit to return if the Swiss progress. Striker Eren Derdiyok is doubtful for the Honduras clash after pulling up with a hamstring injury in training on Wednesday: the problem may be serious as he was stretchered from the field. Valon Behrami is suspended after his sending-off against Chile, with Tranquillo Barnetta set to start in his place. Blaise Nkufo, scorer of five goals in qualifying for the finals, appears a certain starter, alongside Derdiyok (if fit) or skipper Alexander Frei.

The match is the first-ever between the nations. Switzerland’s record against CONCACAF teams bodes ill for Honduras, as the Europeans have yet to lose in three such meetings. Moreover, Reinaldo Rueda’s men need urgently to end a chronic lack of firepower in front of goal. Honduras have contested seven matches in 2010, but have only scored in a 2-2 draw with Belarus. Otherwise, Rueda’s side lost 2-0 to Turkey, 1-0 to Venezuela, and 3-0 to Romania, and drew 0-0 with Azerbaijan. They have failed to find the net in both their games at the FIFA World Cup so far.

Players to watch
Wilson Palacios v Gokhan Inler

The players fill the same midfield role for their respective teams, snuffing out dangerous moves in the holding position, and then launching attacks of their own with intelligent passing from deep. Both have made the breakthrough in leading European leagues, Palacios in England with Tottenham Hotspur, and  Inler in Italy with Udinese. Both wear the number eight for their countries, each is the tireless provider for his team, and both are aged 25. With most pundits anticipating an open game and plenty of open space, the contribution made by the pair will be even more significant than normal, both in guarding the area in front of the back four and setting team-mates free for attacks down the flanks.

The stat
0 – Honduras have contested five matches at the FIFA World Cup finals so far, but are still waiting on a maiden victory. Their previous appearance at the 1982 finals in Spain saw them finish bottom of their group after 1-1 draws with the hosts and Northern Ireland, and a 1-0 defeat to Yugoslavia.

What they said
"Before it all started, we said we’d definitely need a win against Honduras to make the last sixteen. That remains the case. It's in our own hands. We know we can qualify from the group with a win. I don’t think we’ll have a problem with motivation," Benjamin Huggel, Switzerland midfielder.

"We can’t just attack, attack, and attack some more. We have to be intelligent. They’re a good team and they’re battling to make the next round. It’ll be a good, tight game, and obviously we’re hoping Chile beat Spain, and we do what we have to do," Amado Guevara, Honduras captain.

Voice of the fans
Even when we lose, there’s a lot more to us than cheese, choccy and fondue ;-) No matter what happens tomorrow, we little Swissies can be proud of what we’ve achieved (against big nations with far more experience than us)... GO SWITZERLAND tomorrow.... FIFA.com user Helvetica 98 (Switzerland)

Have Your Say
Is one team in the group really destined to amass six points and still go out of the tournament? Can Switzerland repeat their heroics from 2006 and progress to the last 16? Or will Honduras sensationally claim second place in the group?