On the verge of qualifying for two consecutive FIFA World Cup™ tournaments for the first time in their history, the Honduran national team currently find themselves on the threshold of greatness.
After putting in a respectable performance at South Africa 2010, Luis Fernando Suarez’s charges know that a draw against already-eliminated Jamaica on Tuesday will be enough to see them clinch third place in the six-team CONCACAF Hexagonal group and advance automatically to Brazil 2014.
However, Los Catrachos are aware of what it feels like to narrowly miss out on a ticket for the one of the world’s showpiece sporting events, and are therefore approaching this final challenge with seriousness and determination.
Since their arrival on Sunday in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, the squad have been quietly focusing on leaving nothing to chance. It was in this atmosphere of absolute concentration that Honduras star Roger Espinoza spoke to FIFA.com, ahead of his team’s critical encounter.
Fate in own hands
The most positive aspect for Honduras is that they control their own destiny, in that a draw in Kingston will guarantee them a berth in Brazil.
“The match is crucial to our qualification hopes. But there’s no doubt that it’ll be tough, because Jamaica have nothing to lose. We saw it with Costa Rica last Friday: they had already qualified but still caused us a lot of trouble. And this time we’re away, which is never easy,” the Wigan Athletic midfielder said.
Throughout his career, the 26-year-old has always been known for his strong character. Hard-working and tenacious, the tireless campaigner has had an impressive start to his time in England, after rising to prominence in Major League Soccer.
His personality has clearly influenced the rest of the side, given the way in which they have dealt with the ups and downs of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, which has featured unforgettable triumphs such as a 2-1 win over Mexico in the Estadio Azteca in September, and severe disappointments, like a 2-2 home draw with Panama a few days later.
“These are the types of games where you need to demonstrate great character,” confirmed Espinoza. “It’s something that we’ve shown in other hexagonal qualifying matches, and it’s been the key to our success. Away games are always tricky, even more so when there’s so much at stake. But this team has a lot of character, and it’s time to let it shine,” he added.
Till the final whistle
La Bicolor certainly did that on Friday in the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula. Facing one of their greatest regional rivals in the shape of Costa Rica, the Hondurans, backed by a raucous home crowd, did just enough to emerge victorious.
It was Espinoza himself who provided a measured through ball for Jerry Bengston, who duly secured a 1-0 win, thereby maintaining Honduras’ advantageous position in the table. And it is a position that they are not ready to relinquish.
“The win over Costa Rica was important, but the worst thing now would be to take our foot off the pedal, thinking that we’ve already qualified. We must remind ourselves that we’re not yet in Brazil, and that we won’t be until the final whistle sounds and we have the necessary points to finish in the top three. We need to remain as focused as possible,” the former Sporting Kansas City player said.
It is possible that Honduras could qualify even in the event of a loss, provided that Mexico fail to bring three points back from Costa Rica. Although Los Ticos already have their place at the 2014 World Cup booked, Espinoza is confident that they will make things difficult for the Mexicans, just as they did versus Honduras on Friday.
“Big rivalries are always the same, and we’ve got no reason to doubt Costa Rica; they played their hearts out against us. If I were on a team that had qualified, I wouldn’t be making it easy for anyone. On the pitch, there’s no difference and to think otherwise is silly. We’re professionals, and we show that in every game,” he stated convincingly.
The entire population of Honduras will be hoping that calculators will not be necessary on Tuesday evening. The situation is quite clear: if, when the final whistle goes in Kingston, at least one point has been achieved, wild celebrations are likely to break out across the Central American country.
On behalf of the nation’s long-suffering supporters, Espinoza has a confident message to relay ahead of this vital duel. “It would be a dream, one that we’re so close to realising. We’ve got a duty to Honduras’ fans, and we’re keen to give them something to shout about. Qualifying would be an incredible source of pride."