It can be difficult for someone in the United States to fully comprehend what a World Cup appearance means to a nation like Honduras.
Our much larger nation is blessed with more Olympic gold medalists and globally recognized athletes than most of us can possibly keep track of.
It’s so much different in a place like Honduras, where the population of 8.2 million put its pretty close to Virginia. Size-wise, at 43,000 square feet, it’s just a little bigger than Kentucky or Tennessee.
So making a World Cup is a massive historical achievement … and the fact that Honduras’ place in world soccer has grown substantially in the past four years makes Tuesday’s accomplishment less novel, perhaps, but no less cause for celebration.
The steadily rising Hondurans qualified for their second consecutive World Cup, surviving the unbelievable night with a 2-2 draw against Jamaica down in Kingston.
Honduras also qualified for the 1982 finals. But the gap was vast until the country qualified for South Africa. (And represented itself well in 2010, despite not winning a match. Los Catrachos fell 1-0 to a good Chilean side, fell by 2-0 to eventual champion Spain and then drew with improving Switzerland, 0-0.)
Honduras followed that with a stirring performance in the 2012 London Olympics, as the under-23s (augmented with full national team players, including former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza) advanced past the first round and fell to Brazil, 3-2, in a stirring quarterfinal.
(MORE: The surreal, mad, final night in CONCACAF qualifying)
Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.
[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]
Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.
The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.
Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.
Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.
Like the move for Newcastle?
Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.
[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]
Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.
The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.
From The Players’ Tribune:
There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.
Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.
West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.
[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]
Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.
Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.
Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.
“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”
In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.
[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]
There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.
Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.