Jerry Bengtson has been hailed as the figurehead of a new era for the Honduran national team. One of the most influential members of the squad that caught the imagination with their sterling displays at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012, the centre-forward has come to symbolise an influx of new blood that fans of Los Catrachos hope will take their country to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Having just returned from British soil, where he scored three goals in his side's historic run to the quarter-finals, the front-runner spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about his fine performance and that of his team. Also on the agenda were his hopes for the senior squad’s upcoming encounters against Cuba in North, Central America and Caribbean Zone qualifying for Brazil 2014.
A dream come true
Bengtson’s time at the Olympic Football Tournament must have felt like a dream come true for the rising star. Honduras, widely considered rank outsiders pre-tournament, beat heavily fancied Spain and picked up draws against Japan and Morocco to progress from Group D into the last eight. “It was excellent, what we did was really marvellous,” said the player. “We worked really hard and it brought us great results.”
This performance (at the Olympics) will clearly give us a lot of confidence.
Among the goals notched by the New England Revolution striker during London 2012 was Los Catrachos’ winner against the Spanish, a 1-0 victory in which he earned widespread admiration for his elegance on the ball and fearsome aerial prowess. “When we set off from Honduras we already believed we could achieve great things,” he revealed. “We really stuck together and kept our feet on the ground. I think that was the key to our strong performance.”
Honduras’ charge came to an end against the mighty Brazil in the quarter-finals, in a game they led twice before eventually going down 3-2. Despite the defeat, during which the CONCACAF outfit played much of the game with ten men, even going down to nine late on, Bengtson and Co remained proud of their campaign. “It’s lovely to hear Honduras getting recognition; we all gave it everything we had,” said the 25-year-old. “We played a great game and wanted to get something from it, but it wasn’t to be.”
The moment of truth
All of which means it comes as no surprise that the Hondureña faithful have renewed hope that Bengtson can reproduce his London 2012 form at senior national-team level. Currently competing in Round 3 of regional qualifying for Brazil 2014, Honduras badly need a reaction after losing 2-0 at home to Panama and drawing 0-0 in Canada thus far in Group C.
“This performance (at the Olympics) will clearly give us a lot of confidence,” said the man of the moment. “We started poorly in qualifying, which I think was due to overconfidence. We thought we’d got the games in the bag even before we started and clearly that wasn’t the case. That said, I see our next games as very winnable.”
The front-man was not selected for those two opening encounters, but coach Luis Fernando Suarez has brought him back into the fold for the forthcoming friendly against Argentina’s Boca Juniors – a warm-up for September’s vital double-header against Cuba. “I didn’t get the chance to play in those matches but I did still feel like part of the set-up,” said Bengtson. “I think we’ve got a good side. We just need to turn the page (on our start to Group C) and do things better from now on.”
Honduras will need to do just that given they now have no margin for error, though Bengtson’s confidence in their chances remained undimmed. “It’s not going to be at all easy, but I think we can win away in Cuba and Panama,” he continued. “What’s more, we’re going to be really strong at home in San Pedro Sula – we won’t let anybody else take even a single point from us there. From now on we’ve just got to work hard, that’s the key.”
Hard work and confidence would appear to be the order of the day for the Hondurans, while there is no player keener than Bengtson to ensure La H reach Brazil 2014. “I was one of the last players to be cut from the squad that went to South Africa , so I really want to taste life at a World Cup,” he said as the interview concluded. “That’s something I think about every day. I’m giving it everything because I’m sure I’m going to make it happen.”