2014 World Cup team preview: Honduras

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Getting to know… Honduras

Having qualified for its second consecutive World Cup, Honduras has entrenched itself with Costa Rica at the second tier of CONCACAF’s totem pole. Beyond the United States and Mexico — teams that have become habitual qualifiers for FIFA World Cups — the Catrachos are as strong as any nation in CONCACAF, a status affirmed by three straight appearances in the Gold Cup semifinals. With wins in “The Hex” over North America’s big two, the gap between Honduras and its region’s powers continues to narrow.

Historically, Honduras has been a relative non-factor at World Cups. In six games over two appearances (1982, 2010), the nation has three draws, three losses, and has only scored two goals. As much as reaching the second round is every team’s goal, at this summer’s tournament, making strides in the win column will be Honduras’s ultimate goal.

Record in qualifying

Honduras opened World Cup qualifying with a win over the United States, but road losses to Panama and Costa Rica brought the team back down to Earth. In their seventh match of CONCACAF’s final round, Honduras scored a historic 2-1 in Mexico City, beginning the four-match unbeaten run that secured qualification for Brazil.

What group are they in? 

Though Honduras has the easiest draw of any of CONCACAF’s teams, the Catrachos are still Group E’s underdogs. Switzerland is the packet’s seeded team, but France has its highest profile. And in South America, Ecuador may benefit from a familiarity its rivals lack. Most prognosticators will have Honduras at the bottom of Group E, and with good reason.

Game schedule:

15 June, 15:00, Porto Alegre – France vs. Honduras

20 June, 13:00, Curitiba – Honduras vs. Ecuador

25 June, 16:00, Manaus – Honduras vs. Switzerland

Star player: Carlo Costly

With plans to play a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders, Luis Fernando Suárez is putting a lot of faith in forwards Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson., but with Bengtson getting little time with his club team (MLS’s New England Revolution), Costly may have to carry the scoring load. With three goals in four games for Real España before departing for national team camp, the 31-year-old was producing domestically, and having scored 31 times for the Catrachos, the one-time Houston Dynamo forward will be his team’s best bet to do something it couldn’t do in 2010: Score a goal.

Manager: Luis Fernando Suárez

The man who led Ecuador to its best World Cup performance (2006) has been brought in to do the same with Honduras, something that’s led him to look at 96 players since being hired in 2011. Ultimately, Suárez has settled into an approach similar to countryman Reinaldo Reuda – the coach who led the team into World Cup 2010. Keeping the spine of the team (goalkeeper Noel Valladares, defender Maynor Figueroa, and midfielder Wilson Palacious) in place, Suárez is hoping South Africa’s backbone will produce better results in Brazil.

Secret weapon: Boniek Garcia

In North America, the Dynamo designated player is no secret, but for Honduras’s opposition in Group E, a midfielder that’s never played outside of CONCACAF could prove a surprise. Versatile, athletic, and able to run forever, Garcia’s capable of providing a moment’s magic that could turn a flat group stage match. If past World Cups are any indication, there will be a couple of those in Brazil.

Prediction: The Catrachos is capable of springing a surprise, but that’s still unlikely. Set to be underdogs in each of its matches, Honduras can still exceed expectations by avoiding another winless tournament.

Premier League Sunday roundup: Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs all draw; Reds win

NORWICH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Petr Cech of Arsenal looks dejected as Lewis Grabban of Norwich City (7) scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
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The Europa League slate helped give us a quartet of Sunday morning Premier League fixtures, but only five goals through those four games.

Only Liverpool seized the chance to make a move up the table, as James Milner‘s penalty conversion moved the Reds closer to the Top Four, while Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal all settled for draws.

[ SUNDAY RUMORS: Vardy, Neymar, Stones all in the headlines ]

And Arsenal is facing a worsening injury crisis

Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Chelsea — RECAP

The most notable storyline heading into this match was Diego Costa‘s reported feud with Jose Mourinho, and the Chelsea boss opted to use Pedro up top instead of his best center forward. The play was even, and Chelsea probably looked the better for a goal, and Costa remained unused before tossing his bib toward Mourinho. Surely more to come. From the Spurs’ angle, the North London side missed a chance to assert itself as a title contestant. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side remains four points back of first place.

Liverpool 1-0 Swansea CityRECAP

Not much to like here, and Liverpool could’ve scored several times before Swans’ Neil Taylor gave up a penalty by keeping his arms out as he turned away from Jordon Ibe’s cross. James Milner converted, sending Jurgen Klopp‘s side closer to the Top Four (four points back of No. 4 Arsenal).

Norwich City 1-1 Arsenal — RECAP

Speaking of the Gunners, they scored a goal off a John Ruddy gaffe, but lost Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez to injury, also sacrificing an equalizer when Robbie Brady and Lewis Grabban teamed up to get the better of Gabriel Paulista and Petr Cech. Heady times for title hopes at the Emirates, but Sunderland and Aston Villa are next.

West Ham United 1-1 West Bromwich Albion — RECAP

A simply-gorgeous free kick goal from Mauro Zarate was on of several good bits of work by the home side, but Winston Reid picked up an own goal on his 150th West Ham appearance to leave this one a draw.

Liverpool 1-0 Swansea City: Milner’s PK the difference for Reds

during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on November 29, 2015 in Liverpool, England.
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Jurgen Klopp‘s resurgent Liverpool is within four points of the Top Four after a second-half penalty helped the Reds to a 1-0 win over Swansea City at Anfield on Sunday.

James Milner converted a Jordon Ibe-won PK to boost Liverpool to 23 points, good for sixth place.

Swansea is in 15th place with just 14 points, having cooled off considerably.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool nearly opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Adam Lallana slipped Jordon Ibe in on goal, but Kyle Bartley slid to tackle the ball off the goal post.

The opening 20 minutes belonged to the Reds, with timely tackles and deflections saving Swansea on several occasions.

Nothing got through.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score ]  

Liverpool went ahead on a PK. converted the chance after Ibe’s cross was handled by Neil Taylor.

Swansea looked better from the goal onward, but couldn’t find an equalizer.

Norwich City 1-1 Arsenal: Injuries, weather, Canaries too much for Gunners

NORWICH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal evades Jonathan Howson of Norwich City during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
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Two injuries starters, a wild wind, and a pesky batch of defensive-minded Canaries kept Arsenal from all three points at Carrow Road on Sunday.

Unlikely starter and hero Lewis Grabban scored late in the first half to cancel out Mesut Ozil’s goal, as Norwich and Arsenal drew 1-1 in front of a Carrow Road all-seater record crowd of 27,091.

Norwich moves to 16th with 13 points, while Arsenal is in fourth with 27. Most troubling to Arsenal is that Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez joined their long list of walking wounded.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

After a couple good saves from John Ruddy, it was a mistake from the Norwich keeper that cost the Canaries. Alexis Sanchez pounced on a bad touch off a worse long ball from Ruddy, and the Chilean’s through ball was calmly finished across goal by Ozil.

Grabban, a surprise start by Alex Neil, turned a slick pass from Robbie Brady in front of Gabriel — who had come on for injured Laurent Koscielny — and pushed the ball past Petr Cech.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score ]  

Injuries continue to plague the Gunners. Koscielny was lost, as was Alexis Sanchez with a 60th minute apparent hamstring injury.

Alexis Sanchez leaves Arsenal match with apparent right hamstring injury

NORWICH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  An injured Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (17) is given assistance during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Alexis Sanchez has joined Arsenal’s long list of walking wounded.

The Chilean subbed off after 60 minutes at Carrow Road after suffering what appeared to be a right hamstring injury.

[ WATCH: Petulant Costa tosses bib at Mourinho ]

Arsene Wenger has been critical of the use of his players on international duty when not at 100 percent, but that didn’t stop him from using Alexis on a hamstring injury.

Alexis was headed for a loose ball when he tried to leap over a defender and instead pulled up with the injury.