Such are the slim margins of error at the finals of a FIFA World Cup™ that a defeat in your opening group game turns reaching the Round of 16 into an uphill struggle. Honduras, beaten 1-0 by Chile in their first Group H encounter, know this only too well, with a positive result now needed against none other than European champions Spain.
“We know that Spain are favourites thanks to their status on the international stage, but we’ve come to the World Cup to make history, not just to make up the numbers,” Los Catrachos’ full-back Sergio Mendoza told FIFA ahead of 21 June’s meeting with La Selección at the Ellis Park Stadium. “The only way we can make history is to beat one of the favourites. It doesn’t matter how we do it, the only thing that counts is winning the game.”
This will be easier said than done, however, with Vicente del Bosque’s side determined to bounce back after their shock 1-0 opening loss against Switzerland. “We were watching the game in the dressing room and we could barely believe our eyes. Even the Swiss coach said he hadn’t expected those three points,” said the 29-year-old Motagua defender. “But it wouldn’t make any difference to us whether Spain had won or lost as we already needed to beat them anyway.”
Set to pick up his 50th senior cap for his country against David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Co, Mendoza is less concerned about the landmark than the perceived harshness of Honduras’ opening reverse. “It was an even game. Chile didn’t look that special and I think a draw would have been the fairest result,” said the player, who made his full national-team debut in 2002 and scored his only goal so far in a 2008 friendly against Venezuela. “It’s true that we didn’t make many chances (against Chile), but neither did they.”
“I think that we need to give a better account of ourselves (against Spain),” continued the right-back. “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.”
“We know all about the Spanish league, their players and their national team,” said Mendoza at the end of interview, when asked if the Hondurans were wary of a Spanish backlash come Monday’s clash in Johannesburg. “We’re well aware of their strengths but we know their weaknesses too. We’ll have to stay alert and focused if we want to put in a good performance.”