North, Central America and Caribbean
Honduras capped their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign off in dramatic fashion, after a last-gasp equaliser in the USA’s match with Costa Rica ensured their place in the finals for the first time in 28 years. Had it not been for the late draw between the Americans and Los Ticos, La Bicolor would have played Uruguay in the intercontinental play-off and may well have seen another year go by in their recurring failure to qualify for the world showpiece despite often being among the favoured to advance.
After the arrival of Columbian manager Reinaldo Rueda in 2007, Honduras returned to their confident attacking displays combined with a solid defence. Rueda’s men finished the final ‘hexagonal’ section of the CONCACAF qualifying rounds with the best defensive record, letting in just 11 goals. And veteran forward Carlos Pavon led the team at the other end, scoring seven times in nine qualifying appearances and notably netting the game-winner in Honduras’ final qualifying match against El Salvador.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Upon making their first FIFA World Cup return in nearly three decades, Honduras were faced with tough group adversaries in South Africa, including eventual World Champions Spain. The Hondurans opened the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Chile, and soon became the ill-fated team to first encounter the wrath of tournament top-scorer David Villa, who grabbed both goals in Spain’s 2-0 win. In their only other FIFA World Cup appearance, Jose de La Paz held the coaching reins and steered Honduras to a surprising opening 1-1 draw with Spain, the 1982 tournament’s hosts, and followed up that account with the same scoreline against Northern Ireland. Their campaign was cut short, however, at the group stage after Yugoslavia beat Los Catrachos 1-0 thanks to a late goal.
The current crop
After Honduras’s South Africa exit, a rollercoaster in terms of coaching changes and veteran departures impacted the squad. Long-time stalwarts Amado Guevara and Danny Turcios announced their international retirements, and despite ending their World Cup qualification drought, Rueda resigned from his post as manager after last year’s finals. The team has since gone through two coaching changes until settling on Luis Fernando Suarez, who took to the helm in February 2011 and led the team to their first Central American championship since 1995 and an admirable semi-final run at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which was eventually ended by Champions-to-be Mexico.
The key players
Left-back Emilio Izaguirre was the find of the 2010/11 season for Celtic - named Scottish Premier League Player of the Year - and is a key force within Honduras's respectable backline. He is helped by captain and goalkeeper Noel Valladares who, despite a shy off-the-field personality, played an instrumental role in Honduras's qualification for South Africa 2010 and their deep run at the latest instalment of the Gold Cup. Wilson Palacios, one of the more recognisable faces of Honduran football playing for Tottenham Hotspur, is also a crucial piece of the Honduran puzzle and is expected to be fit and available for Brazil 2014 qualification.
Current coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Spain 1982, South Africa 2010 (Group stages)
Former stars: Amado Guevara, Carlos Pavón, Danny Turcios