As part of our World Cup coverage, we have interviewed journalists, correspondents, experts & writers representing each of the 32 countries to give you, the readers, a better understanding of the 32 nations participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Here are the list of interviewees.
For this interview, focusing on Honduras, we spoke to Nathan Carr. Football writer and correspondent for publications such as the official FIFA World Cup guide, Metro Sport, Sabotage Times and others. Follow him on Twitter @_Carr16
Honduras’ best asset seems to be their defence. Their World Cup record also shows they’ve only conceded 1 goal per game on average in their two appearances. For a minnow, that’s a respectable statistic. Why is this and do you believe their defense will once again come up strong?
Honduras’ main strength seems to be at the back as they are physically adept and operate within a rigid, tight system. Their game plan in Brazil is likely to be staying resolute, absorbing pressure and then initiating a counter-attack with their quicker, more dynamic attacking players. The side does have some very reliable and resourceful defenders and they’re once more expected to form a solid rearguard, thanks to the consistency of the back-line in CONCACAF qualifying. The defence was rarely modified during the fourth round of qualification which spanned over a period of eight months. Maynor Figueroa plays left-back for his club Hull City but fills in centrally for his country, accommodating room for Celtic’s energetic full-back Emilio Izaguirre.
Many experts are considering Honduras the weakest side at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Is this really the case? Or is there a chance of the opposition being punished for considering them as push-overs?
No team qualifies for the World Cup by accident, so those already writing Honduras off should think again. They finished third in a tough qualifying group – ahead of the likes of Mexico and Panama – and have played in two World Cups prior to this one. In terms of talent pool and profile, perhaps it is fair to say Honduras is lagging behind. But there are other participating countries which are in a similar boat such as Iran, Bosnia, Costa Rica and Algeria. Honduras will make it hard for France, Ecuador and Switzerland; they realize they’re the underdog of the group but this is the beauty of the World Cup: underdogs can spring a surprise and prosper.
Coach Luis Fernando Suarez has wealth of experience in the South American continent. Given his knowledge of the playing conditions and the climatic familiarity of the players, how much of a positive effect can this bear on a fairly weak side on paper? Also, having led Ecuador to an impressive 2006 World Cup finish, what effect can having a coach like Suarez have on the side?
You could argue that Suarez’s knowledge of the continent will aid Honduras but ultimately it is down to the actual players to deal with the heat and produce the goods. His past experience in the World Cup will be extremely useful – he made a real name for himself in Ecuador after guiding the country to the last 16 in the 2006 edition – and at 54 years old he has managed a handful of clubs in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Suarez is a thorough, proactive coach who drills his players well and expects maximum effort.
Speaking of Suarez, little is known about his or the sides’ tactical approach and set-up. Can you shed some light on what we can expect from Honduras?
Honduras can employ a variety of different formations, but the likeliest is a 4-2-3-1 with Stoke City’s Wilson Palacios anchoring the midfield. Suarez also has the option of playing wing-backs and three at the back, with Roger Espinoza, Osman Chávez, Izaguirre and Figueroa all capable of slotting in there. The only issue with favouring that approach is it leaves Honduras depleted in midfield and this will be a key department in Brazil because of the heat and need to protect the defence. Suarez’s men have some tall players and can cause problems from set-pieces; likewise they are dangerous on the break.
France failed to impress during the qualifiers and in the last few months, Ecuador don’t seem the strongest, while Switzerland though excellent, have a young squad. Who do you think Honduras will see as the weak link and the possible team who they can get their first ever World Cup win against?
I think out of their opponents, Ecuador are probably the weakest but all three are very good in their own right. France are the group favourites and Honduras face them first which will be important in shaping the outcome, because if Honduras can upset the applecart and pull off a scalp then that stands them in good stead heading into the second match with Ecuador. France have an excellent squad, Switzerland were dominant in qualifying and the Ecuadorians, although shaky at the back, have some fine, explosive offensive assets. It would be deemed a tremendous achievement if Honduras were to qualify out of the group.
We at Outside of the Boot track the progress of youngsters under our TalentRadar feature. Our focus is thus on Andy Najar and Luis Lopez. Will either of them play a part in the side? What impact do you see them having?
I’m a fan of Andy Najar and he is certainly impressing in Belgium with Anderlecht. Last season he enjoyed much more game time than when he initially joined from DC United, and he has a Belgian Pro League title to his name after Anderlecht won the domestic trophy. Najar is a skilful, inventive midfielder who can play out wide or in behind the striker. At 21, he already has 17 caps for his country which is praiseworthy and not many other World Cup teams know about him, which means he could well be Honduras’ wildcard. Luis López is a talented 20-year-old goalkeeper playing in the top-flight in Honduras, but isn’t likely to start in goal because Noel Valladares is the captain and No.1 choice. López should benefit massively from the experience, though.
Finally, how far do you honestly see Honduras going? What will be considered a success back in their country?
I genuinely envisage Honduras giving a good, honest account of themselves and making the most out of their attacking outlets – Carlo Costly, Jerry Bengtson, Jerry Palacios, Marvin Chávez and Najar – but they lack that extra bit of quality to make it into the top two. Honduras just being at the finals and soaking up the atmosphere is already considered a large success by the people back home. Making it out of the group will be classed a remarkable bonus. If Suarez can reproduce the same sort of thing he did with Ecuador eight years ago then Honduras will bring immense joy and happiness to the country’s people.