They didn’t score a goal in their last World Cup appearance. They’ve never advanced past the first round. Heck, they’ve never even won a Cup match. Yet Honduras is being touted as one of the dark horse squads of this year’s tournament, and with Ecuador, France and Switzerland as their opponents in the group stage, it isn’t altogether crazy to think about the Central American team reaching the knockout round.
If Los Catrachos do make it that far, it will be thanks to a slew of players making a living playing in the United Kingdom.
Armed with what the British press calls “a sweet left foot,” the veteran Maynor Figueroa hopes to have a standout World Cup to add to an impressive season with Hull that saw the club team make it to the finals of the FA Cup.
An experienced center back with lots of experience in the U.K. – first at Wigan and now at Hull – Figueroa has a knack for scoring spectacular goals, including one in December 2009 from his own half of the field when playing for Wigan.
Figueroa has over 100 caps on the Honduran national team and is the backbone of the team’s defense.
Then there is Stoke City’s Wilson Palacios, who has also spent time with Wigan and Tottenham. The defensive midfielder has struggled at time in the Premier League, at times failing to break into the first team on a regular basis, but he has had his moments.
There was, for instance, the Champions League series in 2011, when he dominated AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf, helping his Hotspur side win a taut 1-0 home-and-away series.
Palacios also sees one huge advantage that squads from Central America will have playing against teams from temperate Europe.
“We Hondurans know what it is like to play at 12 noon in San Pedro Sula – and that is terrible,” Palacios told the Stoke Sentinel. "A lot of us play in Europe too and we know the cold. Brazil has those changes in climate and that can suit us well.”
The Honduran pipeline that goes through Wigan – the other, other Manchester-area club – will funnel two more players to the World Cup, Roger Espinoza and Juan Carlos García.
Espinoza is another defensive mid who helped Wigan claim the FA Cup in 2013 against Manchester City.
García is a defender who joined his countryman at Wigan a few months later after an impressive number of caps with the Honduran national team. He is probably best known to U.S. fans for scoring an authoritative bicycle kick in World Cup qualifying against the American team in a 2-1 Honduras victory in February 2013.
There is also left back Emilio Izaguirre, who plays left back for Scottish champion Celtic and is one of the only Honduras players — along with Palacios and Andy Najar — with experience playing in the Champions League.
Izaguirre is best known for his runs down the left flank, but his crossing into forwards Carlos Costly and Jerry Bengtson is one of the most dangerous aspects of the Honduran team’s attack.
Playing in its third World Cup, Honduras, coach Luís Fernando Suárez believes, is ready to surprise in Brazil. Suárez is aiming to make an impact in the team's opening Group E game against France on June 15.
"Honduras can beat France in the World Cup," the Colombian coach has said. "But we have to work hard to arrive at the game in form."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.