Honduras are in the midst of a major footballing renaissance. Los Catrachos, *who *last qualified for a FIFA World Cup™ finals back in 1982 in Spain, where they impressed many with a dogged draw against the hosts, roared again to book their place at this year’s showpiece event in South Africa alongside CONCACAF powers USA and Mexico. Along with this momentous achievement, the Hondurans have also been clambering their way up the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, with a three-place bump in the first table of the new year.
Moving up three places (21 points) in the latest instalment of the global standings, the Hondurans are now firmly entrenched as the third power in the North, Central American and Caribbean power structure, sliding in just behind USA and Mexico. Their overall position of 34th is a full 11 spots higher than Costa Rica, the side that pipped them to the last two world finals. Honduras’ current position is also higher than such established nations as Japan, Republic of Ireland, Ecuador, Romania, Sweden and Scotland.
Los Catrachos, who have often been considered a sleeping giant in their region due to a combination of raw, physical power and fine technique, have been continuing to progress of late. A friendly win over the USA on 23 January on the outskirts of Los Angeles was the primary reason for their latest boost up the world pecking order. The 3-1 win against Bob Bradley’s Americans, who lined up with only domestic-based players, was nothing if not impressive, and it sent a resounding warning to those who would underestimate the Central Americans come party time in South Africa this June.
The current side is the best in the history of Honduran football.
Among the scorers in the rout of the Americans was one Carlos Pavon, the country’s all-time leading scorer and part of a talented core of players that carry the hopes of a country that has had little to celebrate, with much-publicised political turmoil grabbing most of the headlines. Pavon, who plays for Deportivo Espana in the domestic top flight after a career that brought him to Spain, Mexico and the US, was the team’s top marksman in the South Africa 2010 qualifying campaign with seven goals in nine matches, including the crucial strike against El Salvador on the road in October that assured them of the third automatic spot in the CONCACAF zone.
Pavon’s link-up play with creator-in-chief Amado Guevara is crucial to Honduras’ aims of going further than their creditable group-stage exit in Spain in 1982. Also helping the cause is a band of foreign-based stars that bring the team an extra bit of panache, including Inter Milan speed merchant David Suazo, currently on loan to Genoa, and the English Premier League based trio of Maynor Figueroa, Hendry Thomas (both Wigan) and Wilson Palacios (Tottenham).
With a cool combination of home-grown power, raw talent and overseas polish, the high-flying Hondurans – led by ace tactician Reinaldo Rueda – are fancying their chances up against the big boys later this year. “The current side is the best in the history of Honduran football,” Anderlecht defender Victor Bernardez told FIFA.com, as his side prepare to face European champions Spain, Switzerland and Chile in South Africa’s Group H. “The quality of the individuals concerned is better, the coach has introduced a good mix between experienced players and hungry youngsters, and up front Pavon and Suazo are without equal in the CONCACAF region. We all want to play a big team to show the whole world that we haven’t come to South Africa on holiday.”