Amado Guevara is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars of Honduran football. Having enjoyed spells in club football in Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica and Spain, he is, along with Benfica front-man David Suazo, a key member of the Catracho squad bidding for a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Six points already in the bag at the halfway stage in Group 2, Honduras have made a promising start towards achieving their ultimate goal. However, next up are two of the region's more established sides, Canada and Jamaica, who will be doing their utmost to knock the Catrachos out of their stride. Ahead of these two crucial clashes, the recently appointed Honduran captain spoke exclusively to FIFA.com.
Strength in depth
Since the regional qualifiers for South Africa 2010 began, much has been said about the generation of young players under the command of national team coach Reinaldo Rueda. Besides Guevara and Suazo, Rueda can also call on established performers such as Wilson Palacios, Maynor Figueroa, Carlos Costly and Julio Cesar de Leon. Despite this impressive array of talent available, Guevara refuses to get carried away.
"It's a good group but it's hard to say whether it's the best generation (of Honduran players) ever," says the Toronto FC star. "This squad haven't achieved the really big objectives yet, but the team's still being built. The national team have to keep going as we have been doing so far, with our feet very much on the ground, with God's help and following the instructions of Professor Reinaldo Rueda and his coaching staff."
After falling to a hard-fought 2-1 defeat in Mexico in their opening match of Round 3 of CONCACAF qualifying, Honduras bounced back with a vital 2-1 success in Canada and a convincing 3-0 home success over Jamaica. "It's been very tough. We've had to really earn the results we've got so far," says Guevara. "We haven't achieved our goal yet but we do have it in our sights and we're working really hard as a team to try and get there."
This good start has also had a knock-on effect on the spirits of the Catracho faithful, who have now gone 26 years since their country's first and only appearance at a FIFA World Cup finals, at Spain 1982. And while the Honduras captain feels the current crop of players have an edge on previous national sides that have tried and failed to reach the global showpiece, he refuses to accept they are among the favourites to qualify from the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone.
"The difference is the level of maturity that we've picked up over the course of each game. A balanced squad has been assembled, which in turn has become more and more of team. We'll have to see how far we can go," he says with confidence. "Are we favourites? All the teams are favourites, Honduras are working hard in order to meet our objectives step by step."
Stumbling blocks on the road
Next up for Guevara and Co in Group 2 are Canada at home and Jamaica away. "They're very tricky opponents and we know that they can call on some real big-name players. But we've got merits of our own and these games will be difficult, just as we'd expect," says the Honduras skipper. "But of course, we'll be going into each game with our sights set on victory."
A task that will be made all the more demanding by the absence of two of their key men: top scorer Suazo and playmaker Cesar de Leon. "We are aware just how important David and Julio are, they make a valuable contribution, they're leaders and good players. Fortunately the national team have a strong squad. Let's hope we don't miss them too much!"
With that in mind, Guevara is hoping that he can help keep the Catracho ship on course, in his role as captain. "It's a great blessing (to wear the armband), I ask God to help guide me while I bear this great responsibility, and I hope to wear it with dignity."
And while of course the players will have a huge role to play, so will Colombian-born coach Rueda, the man who has masterminded Honduras' recent revival.
"We've spent nearly two years with him and we've learned so much. Tactical awareness and discipline, how to dictate the tempo of games, putting an emphasis on teamwork," enthuses Guevara. "There's no doubt that he's a great coach and he's been a great asset for our national side."