For Emilio Izaguirre, the qualifying picture is devastatingly clear: "From now on, every game is going to be a final." He and his Honduras team-mates may have graced the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, but the remaining stretch of the road to Brazil 2014 lies pitted with obstacles for the CONCACAF side.
Although Los Catrachos kept themselves in the running by climbing fourth with a 2-0 win against Jamaica on Tuesday, the left-back knows they now have precious little margin for error. "Our campaign hasn't been ideal up until now, but we know what we still have to do to put things right," the Celtic defender explained to FIFA.com.
"There's nothing left to calculate. We have five games to go and we need to take as many points as possible. Our opponents will want to give everything to beat us, so it's up to us to give 110 per cent in every match."
First up on the list of mini-finals is a trip to face USA next Tuesday, and Izaguirre intends to bring all his experience to bear to topple the region's qualifying frontrunners.
The 27-year-old first broke through as a professional with Honduran club Motagua in 2004. Playing for one of the country's most illustrious outfits, he won the league title in 2007 and was awarded his first international cap the same year. Positioned either at left-back or in left midfield, Izaguirre quickly grasped the opportunity and put together a string of fine performances to emerge as a pillar of the side that qualified for South Africa 2010.
"Playing in the World Cup is the dream of every footballer," he said, having also disputed the FIFA U-20 World Cup Netherlands 2005. "Despite going out in the group stage, we performed well and gained experience." The tournament proved fruitful on a personal level too, with Izaguirre putting in a pair of solid displays and earning a move to Celtic the following month. "The summer of 2010 was rich in emotions for me. In the space of just a few weeks, I played in the World Cup and then signed for one of the best clubs in Europe. I couldn't have asked for more."
Celtic success story
Eager to make a strong impression with the Bhoys, Izaguirre hit the ground running in Scotland and rapidly made the left-back berth his own. So excellent were his performances, in fact, that he was even named the Scottish Premier League's player of the year in his debut season.
"Everything happened very quickly," he said. "I signed my contract, played my first games and then all of a sudden I was a starter. I worked hard to get to that stage, though, and I have the fortune to play for a legendary club and discover competitions like the Champions League. This season, I was able to play at the Camp Nou and take on Barcelona. That's still a great memory."
The defender is now desperate to appear in a second consecutive FIFA World Cup, but, in a zone where all six teams still have a chance of qualifying, Honduras need to excel in their five remaining games if they are to achieve their ambition.
"The competition is very strong and all the teams dream of going to the World Cup, but we know we have the potential to secure qualification," said Izaguirre, who hopes to add to his 45 caps against the Stars and Stripes. "We haven't been at our best away from home up until now, but we'll have to do everything to win points against the leaders and stay on course. It would be exceptional [to qualify], especially as the World Cup will be in Brazil, the home of football."