Honduras and Mexico have clashed many times in international football, fostering a rivalry that is over and above many others in the North, Central American and Caribbean Zone. Next Wednesday's contest in San Pedro Sula is set to have an extra-special resonance, however, with both teams desperate to ensure their progress from Group B of CONCACAF qualifying. If they wish to keep their hopes of reaching the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ alive, neither can afford to lower their guard.
A high-voltage encounter was always on the cards, ever since the fixture list for this group phase - the penultimate stage of regional qualifying - was announced. However, both teams had expected to have wrapped up their place in the final 'hexagonal' round by now, only for a resurgent Jamaica to recover from a dreadful start and bring themselves back into contention. FIFA.com users can follow all the action in this decisive encounter LIVE via the Emirates MatchCast from 19.00 local time on Wednesday.
Everyone involved with the two teams knows exactly what is in play. Defeat for second-placed Honduras, who are two points clear of Jamaica, would end their hopes of reaching the final round in case of a Reggae Boyz win over Canada. This scenario would also be a boon for the Mexicans, who can ensure the non-involvement of a gifted Catracho squad in the final six-team round.
Despite the very real threat of elimination, morale in the Honduran camp is high. "We're 98 per cent ready," said assistant coach Alexis Mendoza. "We carried out an intensive physical training session and revised our tactics with the players again, going over what they already know. The team is extremely motivated ahead of the Mexico game."
The Mexicans, Group 2 leaders on ten points, three clear of Jamaica and with a far superior goal difference, are also in confident mood. "We have to travel to Honduras and win, not just to seal qualification but also to give the fans and the whole of the Mexican public something to cheer," says Nery Castillo, who returns to El Tri duty after a year away. "The supporters want us to win, play well and score a lot of goals."
The match is dominating discussion in sporting circles in both countries. And given the abundance of quality players at the disposal of the two coaches, should either side fail to take this next step towards South Africa 2010 the backlash would surely be fierce. Mexican television stations have even gone so far as to label Wednesday as "Judgement Day", while in Honduras the Catracho faithful have flocked to buy tickets - thousands of fans queuing up outside the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano despite the searing temperatures.
The stage is therefore set for a pulsating encounter, one boosted by the fact the two teams are at near full-strength save an injury to Jonny Magallon that will see him out of the Mexican rearguard. The stadium will be packed, while millions more will be following the match from every corner of the globe. Why not join them via FIFA.com's Emirates MatchCast, where you can follow all the action as it happens, LIVE and up-to-the-minute? Don't miss out!