The Hondurans face a mental battle to avoid being the whipping boys of Group H
Some will say Honduras do not have a chance in hell of doing anything significant in a group that pits them against Spain, Chile and Switzerland. And if they play the way they did in their last friendly, at home to Venezuela in San Pedro Sula, the sceptics will be proved right.
But coach Reinaldo Rueda believes that his players were unsettled in that game by the pre-match celebrations that had them receiving a Honduran flag from the president on the pitch and Rueda himself being granted citizenship of the central American country.
Concentration is a key issue with Honduran footballers, with Rueda and past foreign coaches claiming that instilling tactical concentration into the players is possibly their hardest task. It requires a lot of repetition on the training ground – and that’s something a national coach rarely gets.
Honduran players are highly regarded for their athleticism, technique and strength. The black players, who largely come from the Caribbean coastal areas, are very much like the Africans in style and if Rueda can get some tactical discipline into his side in the month before to their June 16 kick-off against Chile in Nelspruit, Honduras could complicate the group order.
If not, they may end up being the team against which the others will attempt to boost their goal difference.
Rueda and his staff have already achieved a great deal in their three years in a country divided along racial and social lines, in which the people of the north and Caribbean regard those from the south – where the capital Tegucigalpa is situated – with suspicion. Somehow they have produced a squad that has broken down barriers and got the country pulling in the same direction.
Strength and speed
Much will depend on the match against Chile, the team Rueda fears the most because of the intelligence his players will need to apply to the task. The heavily tactical content of such a match is not something Honduran players are comfortable with, relying more on strength and speed than wiles to break down defences.
Playing a 4-4-2 system, occasionally varied to 4-4-1-1, a lucky break in a counter-attack might give Honduras a goal to defend. However, their big defenders are not quick on the turn and are likely to be shown up by the speedy Chile and Spain forwards, and they will need to be particularly sharp at set-pieces, where concentration is key.
Defeat, though, will probably mean elimination for Honduras before they have gone into their remaining matches.
The view from Honduras
“The team have had three years together and where’s the level of play? At this stage it ought to be a proper team, a little machine, with a well-oiled, fast, aggressive game. But there are many things to regret. They look like they are preparing for the 2014 World Cup. They have played more than 50 internationals and [against Venezuela] some 20-year-old kids come to leave them bare. The defence wandered and the attack hardly bothered the Venezuela goalkeeper.”
Jose De la Paz Herrera, Honduras coach at the 1982 World Cup
“Honduran players are easily distracted, they cannot concentrate for 90 minutes. That is what Rueda has to work on. They lose a man at a corner, they give away goals when the ball comes back into the middle – that’s what happened against Turkey [a 2-0 friendly defeat in March]. Technically they’re good but not aware tactically. You have to insist, repeat things a lot.”
Mario Zanabria, Argentinian coach of Honduran club Real Espana