Honduras go into the World Cup with few expectations, but there is certainly enough about the Group E underdogs to suggest that they could spring a surprise this summer.
Managed by Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez, who guided Ecuador to the last 16 at the 2006 tournament, the team exceeded expectations in qualifying by sealing one of CONCACAF’s three automatic spots for Brazil.
Taking part in a second consecutive World Cup for the first time in their history, they bring to Brazil an experienced group of players, with names like Wilson Palacios, Maynor Figueroa, Roger Espinoza and Emilio Izaguirre already familiar to British football fans for their exploits in the Premier League and the Scottish Premiership.
While the core of the team is made of up seasoned veterans, with 10 players from the South Africa 2010 squad returning, two young members of the side - winger Andy Najar and defensive midfielder Luis Garrido - are exciting talents who bring a great deal of energy to the lineup and should be ones to watch.
With manager Suarez likely to stick to his familiar defensive gameplan, deploying either a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2, Honduras will look to make good use of the counter-attack with the pace of Najar and Oscar Boniek Garcia on the flanks, while hard-nosed central midfielders Palacios, Garrido and Espinoza stifle the opposition in the middle of the pitch.
Against opponents Switzerland and Ecuador, who both harbour their own backline issues, it’s a strategy which could well pay dividends, although France will of course pose a sterner test.
The main question with Honduras, however, is where the goals will come from. While both strikers Jerry Bengtson and Carlo Costly were reliable in qualifying, neither is a truly first-class option who will scare defenders. With that in mind, they will need to keep things tight at the back to truly contend in the group.
In addition, the team looked less than impressive in their previous two warm-up friendlies, losing 2-0 to Turkey and 4-2 to Israel. With their final test ahead of the World Cup coming against England in Miami tonight, a good performance is therefore needed to reinstall some confidence.
Ultimately though, while Honduras lack true star power, their underrated group of players is certainly capable of causing an upset if they play to their full potential. Pitched in a group which is far from the tournament’s toughest, if their defence holds firm, then they at least stand an outside chance of making it to the knockout phase.