Soccer-World-Numbers do not favour Honduras at third World Cup


TEGUCIGALPA, June 6 (Reuters) - Honduras's World Cup record is little to shout about before their third appearance at the finals.

Los Catrachos have never progressed beyond the first round, have never won a game and they did not score a goal in their last appearance.

Group E rivals France will not fear the Central Americans but Ecuador and Switzerland have reasons to believe that Honduras could defy the odds and reach the last 16 for the first time.

Switzerland exited the 2010 World Cup after a 0-0 draw against Honduras in their final group match while Ecuador know Luis Fernando Suarez well.

The Colombian was hired by Honduras in 2011 after he had led Ecuador to their second consecutive World Cup in 2006. Suarez took Ecuador into the last 16 for the first and only time.

It is easy to overlook Honduras but while they lack star power, one of their notable strengths is the unity of the team.

Suarez has introduced youth players to freshen up his side and led the under-23 squad to the quarter-finals at the 2012 Olympics.

But more recent results are not so encouraging. In a friendly in March that was supposed to be a source of national pride, Honduras eked out a 2-1 win over Venezuela, but the visitors fielded only a second-string team.

A guide to how well they are progressing will come on June 7, just eight days before their opening match against France in Porto Alegre, when they play England in a friendly in Miami.

England are likely to win that game, but the result will be largely immaterial. What will matter most to Suarez will be how well his team fares against one of the stronger nations in the finals.

Honduras have had to deal with its share of adversity - the country engaged in the brief 1969 "Soccer War" against El Salvador which coincided with rioting during a World Cup qualifier between the two countries.

These days the adversity comes in the form of rampant crime and a drug war.

Honduras has the world's highest murder rate, according to the United Nations, and hardly anyone is immune to the scourge, not even footballers.

Edwin Palacios, the 14-year-old brother of one of the team's biggest names, midfielder Wilson Palacios, was kidnapped and killed as Palacios's career in England was taking off and other players have had their brushes with crime. (Reporting by Mary Milliken and Rex Gowar, editing by Robert Woodward)

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