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Soccer-Honduras let the Pitbull out for Ecuador match

Reuters

By Alan Baldwin

CURITIBA, Brazil, June 19 (Reuters) - Honduras will let the 'Pitbull' off the leash for Friday's World Cup Group E match against Ecuador with Jorge Claros replacing the suspended Wilson Palacios in midfield.

Coach Luis Fernando Suarez announced his decision on Thursday and hinted at more changes to the starting line-up for a match Honduras must win after losing 3-0 to France.

"I told you the situation regarding Jorge, tomorrow you'll know the rest," he said.

Palacios, a Premier League player in a side with few top flight internationals, was sent off in the match against France for a second yellow after charging into Paul Pogba seconds before the break and giving away a penalty.

Claros spent a year on loan to Hibernian in Scotland after receiving a gunshot graze to the head after a Tegucigalpa gas station car-jacking in 2011 and has been in and out of the national team since 2006.

"It's a big responsibility for anyone to replace a player of the stature of Palacios," said the man whose fearsome nickname makes him stand out even in a team with a reputation for hard tackling.

"We are calm, we are going to enjoy it. Tomorrow's match is a lot of expectation and curiosity because of the coaches and we have to play our own game and be concentrated and involved to win it."

By a quirk of fate, Suarez was previously the Ecuador coach while Ecuador's Reinaldo Rueda was in charge of Honduras in their 2010 World Cup campaign. Both are Colombians.

Suarez said he was calm about the clash between the two and said it had been some time since he last spoke to his counterpart, whose Ecuador team were beaten 2-1 by Switzerland in their opener.

Honduras have never won a game at a World Cup finals or scored in one since 1982.

"It would be very easy for this group of players to say, after 32 years without a win, that we can make history by scoring a goal," said Suarez. "But I don't think that is their idea.

"This group can do more. They want to do things."

Curitiba has yet to see a goal in its Baixada arena after a 0-0 draw between Nigeria and Iran but Suarez was hopeful Friday's game would give the fans something to savour.

"I think tomorrow will be a really good game...this is a different World Cup," said the coach. "In the past we had 16 'exotic' teams and then 16, when the World Cup really started.

"Not now. This one started from the very beginning." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Rex Gowar)

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