Honduras look to Pavon to lead from the front

By Rex Gowar

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (Reuters) - Striker Carlos Pavon, Honduras's all-time leading international goalscorer and a national icon, carries the hopes of his compatriots at the World Cup.

Described by his club coach as an "area animal," Pavon's task will be to score the goals that help to ensure at least a decorous performance for one of the weaker teams at the South Africa finals.

The 36-year-old, who has scored 57 goals in his 95 international appearances, may carry the burden alone since his strike partner David Suazo is doubtful as he fights to recover from a leg injury.

"Pavon is an area animal, he's very fast in there," said Argentine Mario Zanabria, coach of Pavon's club side Real Espana, based in the industrial city of San Pedro Sula.

"He's a good professional, very special physically. He doesn't need to train much, like all the mixed-race (players) here," Zanabria told Reuters in a recent interview.

Pavon, who made his Honduras debut as a teenager in 1993, was recalled after a long absence by the national team's Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda before the final CONCACAF qualifying group last year.

In his comeback game Honduras beat Chile -- their opponents in the opening Group H game in Nelspruit on June 16 -- 2-0 in a friendly in Miami in January 2009.

"Rueda called him up for a friendly against Chile, he came on as a substitute and scored. They (Honduras) won and he was never again left out of the team. He scored in almost all their (remaining) qualifying games," said Zanabria.

Pavon scored seven goals in the remaining nine qualifiers, including the winner in the last, a 1-0 victory over El Salvador on October 15 that ensured they reached the South Africa finals.

Pavon, married with two children, has led an exemplary family life in a country plagued by violence on the street and in the home.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)