Regional powerhouse

One of the smallest countries in terms of size and population to take part in this year’s edition, Honduras’s list of achievements on the world stage, unsurprisingly, is not great. However, in regional tournaments it has tasted fair bit of success.

The Central American Republic of Honduras, sandwiched between Guatemala and Nicaragua, will be making its third appearance in the FIFA World Cup Finals.

One of the smallest countries in terms of size and population to take part in this year’s edition, Honduras’s list of achievements on the world stage, unsurprisingly, is not great. However, in regional tournaments it has tasted fair bit of success.

Its roll of honour includes winning the CONCACAF title in 1981 — 60 years after the national team made its debut in the Independence Centenary Games in 1921 where it lost by a massive 10-1 margin to host Guatemala. The nation was also the CONCACAF runner-up in 1985 and ‘91.

Following its triumph in 1981, Honduras made the World Cup finals for the first time the following year in Spain. Though it managed to draw against both Spain and Northern Ireland, a solitary-goal loss to Yugoslavia forced it to take an early flight back home.

And at home it stayed for the next 28 years before qualifying for the 2010 edition in South Africa. But this time, too, the results were dismal, with two losses — to Chile and Spain — followed by a draw against Switzerland.

However, in between it enjoyed reasonable success locally, winning three UNCAF Nations Cup titles (1993, 95 and 2011) and also gold medals at the Central American Games in 1990, 1994 and 2013.

Nicknamed Los Catrachos, La Bicolor or just La H, the team did well in the 2001 Copa America, finishing third, after replacing Argentina, which withdrew, in the last minute.

While that chronicles Honduras’ achievements, the country was also one of the parties involved in the ‘Football War.’ While immigrant trouble had festered for long between Honduras and El Salvador, football results in 1969 started off a war between the two. With the World Cup qualifiers then not employing goal-differences to separate teams, the two countries had to play a third match at a neutral venue, following hostile home-wins by each team.

Right before the third game in Mexico, El Salvador broke off diplomatic relations with Honduras and promptly won the match and qualified. With matters already at a boil politically, war broke out between the two nations and thousands of lives were lost.

* * * Strike force

Carlos Pavon is Honduras' all-time leading goalscorer with 58 goals. He started and ended his career in his country with Real Espana, also top scoring for them with 72 goals. In between he played in Mexico, Europe (Serie A - Udinese and Napoli, and La Liga with Real Vallodolid) and in the Major League Soccer.

Wilmer Valasquez, aka `El Matador' is second in the list of goal-scorers for Honduras with 35 strikes in 47 games. Four of these goals came in his debut game against Panama in the 1997 UNCAF Nations Cup.

Milton Nunez, also called Tyson, comes third in the list of goal-scorers with 33 strikes, while Amado Guevara, with 138 international caps leads Honduras's list of all-time appearances. The attacking midfielder also has 27 goals to his credit. Sriram Venkatesh