To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.We've reached the end of our journey, finally diving into the Group of Who The Hell Knows Who's Finishing Second. Why not Honduras?
HondurasGroup H THE BASICS
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Los Catrachos (What other Central Americans call Hondurans)
Blue and White
•How They Got Here:
Finished behind the United States and Mexico in CONCACAF qualifying.
•World Cup Pedigree:
1 World Cup ('82), failed to win a gameTHE PLOT
Can a team that needed the help of Jonathan Bornstein (of all people!) just to get to the World Cup do any real damage in a group that seems as if it were designed just for them to fail?THE DIRECTOR
Rueda is a strict disciplinarian coaching in his first World Cup. (His last attempt, with Colombia, fell short in 2006.)LEADING MAN
The sturdy and powerful Tottenham midfielder had an excellent season in Europe, and is easily the most Internationally cultured Honduran on this squad. He's a ball winner and is known for his fearless attitude. His one drawback? He doesn't have a great shot.SUPPORTING CAST
(forward, Inter Milan) is a deadly striker for his country who doesn't get enough time on the pitch for his club;Carlos Pavon
(forward, Real Espana - Honduras) was the surprising scoring leader in CONCACAF qualifying, surprising because he's prone to missing chances;Amado Guevara
(midfielder, Motagua - Honduras) is the team's captain and, until this year, played for the MLS in Toronto;Julio Ceasar de Leon
(midfielder, Torino) is nicknamed "Rambo";Maynor Figueroa
(left back, Wigan) is the team's best defender and must stay on the field for the team to have any chance of preventing goals.LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR
Like I was going to pick anyone else on this team? Espinoza was having a very solid season for the Wizards after being moved from midfield to left back. It appears he'll be a substitute for now and will be in the midfield mostly. He'll find his way onto the field and he'll do something good. Promise.THE LIKELY VILLAIN
Pavon PRODUCTION NOTES
This team will try and play attractive attacking football, usually in a 4-4-2.WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
"The Matrix Reloaded"
Should be a lot better than it is, sometimes is a lot better than it looks ... but often makes you wish you were watching something different.TRAILER
DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...
You've heard the phrase "banana republic" right? Honduras is actually a literal banana republic, due in part to its massive exporting of the fruit.CRITICAL BLURBS
Honduras can be a very dangerous team, or they could completely not show up. ... Are the one lower-tier team (Slovenia, North Korea, Greece, New Zealand) that can score goals. Unfortunately, the defense isn't quite as solid as the others. ... The team will go only as far as Palacios and Suazo can take them. They will sorely miss Carlos Costly, who will miss the Cup with an injury. ... Chile is a physical team, Switzerland is a tightly organized team and Honduras is a free-flowing attacking team. This will be the best test of which approach works best, as any of those three teams could finish second in this group. ...Best-case scenario?
They won't beat Spain, but Chile and Switzerland are there for the taking. That's as good as they can hope for. ...Realistic prediction?
Finishing third in the group ahead of Chile.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
Just being here should be enough for Honduras. After all, they were lucky to just qualify. But that's not going to be enough for a team that has a lot of culture and European experience. For them, the Hollywood moment would come on the last day of group play. Against Switzerland. With both teams sitting on a win and a loss (both beating Chile, losing to Spain), this game will decide second place. It's a tight, slightly boring game. Honduras' attack has been met and resisted time and time again by the Swiss. But, with about 15 minutes to go, Palacios wins the ball in midfield, swings a smart cross up and over the Swiss defense onto the foot of Pavon. Pavon flings a wild cross into the area where trailing midfielder Guevara rises to meet the ball with his head, slamming it past the keeper. One moment of sheer brilliance in a 90-minute game, which just about perfectly sums up the Honduran experience. (As an added bonus, it provides the nation it's greatest soccer moment ever that actually involved their team.)
Group A: South Africa
Group B: South Korea
Group C: Algeria
Group D: Serbia
Group E: Japan
Group F: New Zealand
Group G: North Korea
Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook