It almost appears as if nothing can stop Honduras at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, after their 1-0 Round-of-16 defeat of highly-fancied Uzbekistan, who had previously conceded just one goal at the tournament.
“They’re extremely difficult to beat because of how well they defend,” Honduras' Rembrandt Flores explained to FIFA.com on Monday evening after his side’s surprise victory. “When they’ve got the ball, they’re in control. Even when they went down to ten men, they played very well. They’re a great team.”
Before getting the better of the Asian champions, Jose Valladares’ men had kept a watchful eye on proceedings in the earlier match being staged in Sharjah, which saw Sweden beat Japan and book themselves a place in the quarter-final, where they will now face La Bicolor.
“They’re really big and strong, but our style of play could well pose them a few problems. Their weakness seems to be that they’re not all that fast, and our pace could be the key to beating them,” said the young Olimpia midfielder. “We’re here to reach the final, and I think that each one of us truly believes we can achieve that goal.”
This display of confidence may seem surprising, given that, prior to UAE 2013, the Hondurans had never advanced to the second round nor recorded a single point at the U-17 World Cup, but for this particular side, those historical statistics do not appear to matter.
Flores, for one, is keen to stress the team’s recent achievements and progress: “We’ve really improved since last year. Our success here comes down to discipline: everyone gives 100 per cent in each match – that’s our great strength. And I also think we’ve had help from a higher power in this tournament. Against Slovakia, we scored in the 92nd minute!”
The success of the small Central American nation has not come about by chance, however. It is simply the latest upswing in the country’s recent football development. “The main qualities of Honduran football are physical strength and speed, not just of our individual players, but also in the way we move the ball forward,” said Flores.
Los Catrachos’ remarkable performance last year at the Olympic Football Tournament in London, where Roger Espinoza and Co came close to upsetting a Brazil XI that included Thiago Silva and Neymar in the quarter-final, had a significant effect on Flores.
“We’ve played the video of that match three times since we arrived here, to show us that nothing is impossible. It’s a wonderful example for us, and it inspires us with a lot of confidence,” said the self-assured midfield man.
His face lights up when the topic of the senior side, who have just booked their place at the FIFA World Cup™ for the second consecutive time and for the third time in their history, is brought up. “It’s fantastic for the people back home. Our country does have problems, but when the national team plays, everyone comes together; it’s a great boost for morale. I believe that Honduras can do great things in Brazil next year. We can definitely get through the group stage, and why not even reach the final?”
Ahead of his own team’s crucial quarter-final clash with Sweden in Al Ain on Friday, Flores concludes with his intention to draw inspiration from the senior star he most admires, Luis Garrido. “He’s my favourite player. I’m an admirer of the way he gives his all and covers every area of the pitch. He’s a real role model for me.”