Honduras Camp Focus – Hopes rest on spine of veterans Pavon and Guevara

The Honduran government this week approved a schedule which will allow around 200,000 citizens time off work to watch Los Catrachos’ world cup exploits, but their hopes of giving a good account of themselves seem to lie in the balance. A miserable run of form has seen them fail to win a game since January, while two of their star players, despite declaring themselves fit, may well struggle to be ready to face Chile on Wednesday. The potential absence of one-time Serie A Most Valuable Foreign Player David Suazo and midfield lynchpin Wilson Palacios will put a huge dent in the Honduran challenge to qualify from Group H. Coach Reinaldo Rueda underlined the duo’s importance, stating that while he is 90% certain of the 11 players he will choose to start Wednesday’s game, “the other 10% is made up of Suazo and Palacios”.

If the worst comes to the worst and the Europe-based two are not fit to play, Los Catrachos will have to hope that the experienced spine of their team will carry them through. Up front for example, the main man remains their 36-year-old record goalscorer Carlos Pavon. Now back playing in his homeland with Real Espana, the club where he began his career, Pavon is well-travelled, having had spells in Spain, Italy, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and even teaming up with David Beckham at LA Galaxy. Pavon is virtually a deity in Honduras, especially since his goal sealed qualification to South Africa. Even at his advanced age, he brings a talismanic quality to Los Catrachos, and – while not as quick as in salad days – he still has the strength and touch of a class act, proving one of the few players to emerge from the recent run of friendlies with any credit. Pavon is a very clever forward, and his skill and surprising aerial efficiency for a relatively small player should keep Chile, Switzerland and maybe even the Spanish on their toes.

In midfield, 33-year-old playmaker and captain Amado Guevara has what is surely his last chance to make his mark on the world stage. “El Lobo” (“the wolf”) is another player who has plied his trade all around the globe, and was player of the tournament at the 2001 Copa America, where he led Honduras to a surprise third place. Guevara is the creative hub of Los Catrachos’ team, driving them forward. A player of superb vision with a well-crafted range of passing, he is the man Honduras will look to in terms of making the bullets for the forwards. He also possesses a powerful shot and is one of several free kick specialists in the Central Americans’ arsenal.

One concern regarding Guevara is the potential absence of Wilson Palacios, with fears that the playmaker might not enjoy the same freedom to roam forward without the protection the Tottenham man provides so expertly. Nevertheless, Guevara is a born leader and, like Pavon, a national hero.

At the back, while there is nobody of comparable experience to Pavon and Guevara, with 234 caps between them, Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa, at 27 years of age, is one of his country’s ten most capped players. Figueroa’s versatility is invaluable to Los Catrachos. Part of a mean, well-organised defence, he is normally deployed at centre back where his composure gives the team confidence, but he can, when required, fill in at left back, the position he has made his own at Wigan. Having been tipped for big things for a couple of seasons now, a good tournament could hasten the ambitious defender’s exit from the DW Stadium to brighter pastures.

In spite of the problems besieging Los Catrachos’ world cup preparations, and their Coach’s seemingly downbeat attitude, the players themselves are remaining upbeat. Suazo has already talked, somewhat fancifully, of beating Spain, while Hendry Thomas has spoken of the unity of the squad and Georgie Welcome has expressed his sheer delight simply to be at the World Cup.

If Honduras are to do more than simply make up the numbers however, they will need their wise old heads more than ever before.

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