Mendoza: Beating Spain is very special

Jose Mendoza played a huge part in defeating highly-fancied Spain at St James' Park on Sunday, as Honduras produced the biggest shock of the second round of group matches at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament.

Seemingly unbeatable, Los Catrachos’ goalkeeper was instrumental in eliminating the Spaniards from London 2012, pulling off numerous fine saves to preserve the 1-0 lead acquired by Jerry Bengtson’s early opener.

“Every time I set foot on the pitch, it’s to put in the performance of my life,” Mendoza told outside a joyous dressing room. The determination and intensity in his voice are a reflection of the Central Americans’ strong display against one of the favourites to win the competition.

“There’s no doubt that beating the world’s top footballing nation is a very special result for us. Our performance was excellent, and we fought for every blade of grass. It’s a tremendous time to be part of this team,” he continued.

In terms of the head-to-head history between the two countries, the result represented a breakthrough for Honduras, even though the CONCACAF nation had caused an upset versus La Roja in the past, drawing 1-1 with the hosts in their opening match of the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™.

Our performance was excellent, and we fought for every blade of grass. It’s a tremendous time to be part of this team.
Honduras keeper Jose Mendoza

Mendoza makes no attempt to hide his delight at the outcome of the encounter. “Of course it wasn’t the same Spain team that won the World Cup, but we still managed to beat a great side with world-class players. I’m so proud of my team – everyone did their job brilliantly,” said the Honduran shot-stopper.

Although he produced some top-drawer saves during the game, negating countless Spanish attacks, the keeper, who plays his club football for Honduran top-flight outfit Platense, is keen for the praise to be shared among the team.

“I had a good match, as did all my team-mates. We’re got a group of real battlers, and we were extremely determined going in for challenges. We were able to hold on to our lead by defending as a unit. We were solid, and hungry for the win,” he explained.

In what is the country’s third appearance at this level, Honduras’ Olympic team have already equalled the number of points amassed in their previous best-ever performance, which came at Sydney 2000. But Mendoza is at pains to point out that he and his team-mates have no intention of resting on their laurels.

“We’ve not qualified for the next round yet, but we’ve got four points and three goals already in the bag,” he said. Their first two goals enabled the Hondurans to claim a point against a Morocco side that had dominated the majority of the match. “We’ve been good at taking our chances so far, and I hope that we can come up with even more goals as the tournament continues,” he added.

La Bicolor are ideally placed to continue their march towards a historic quarter-final appearance. Lying second in Group D with four points, they face pool leaders Japan – already qualified for the last eight with six points – on Wednesday 1 August. A draw will suffice for Honduras, and even a defeat would still see them advance should the Moroccans fail to beat Spain.

Mendoza is not particularly interested in getting bogged down in possible permutations, however. “Japan have been impressive so far,” stated the 23-year-old custodian. "They’re very well organised and on a good run of form. It’s going to be a difficult match, but we’ll go looking for a win to ensure our qualification."

As for what might follow, the Honduras No1 makes it clear that his team’s ambition knows no bounds: “We’re here to win a medal; if possible, the gold.”