Saturday 22 August 2020, 09:45

Suazo: Honduras have quality and real match-winners

  • Preliminary draw for Concacaf World Cup qualifying took place this week

  • David Suazo starred in Honduras’ FIFA World Cup™ return in 2010

  • "The Panther" talks about his qualifying experiences and the road to Qatar

A member of one of the finest generations of players Honduras has ever produced, David Suazo knows better than anyone just how hard and how satisfying it is to reach the FIFA World Cup™. The former front man, who ran out for the likes of Inter Milan and Benfica in his playing days, was on hand as an assistant at this week’s Concacaf Preliminary Draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, which gave us the opportunity to ask him about the qualifiers and his favourites to represent the region at the big event. You took part in three qualifying competitions and finally made it to South Africa 2010 in the third. What did you make of the whole qualifying process?

David Suazo: Honduras made it back to the World Cup after 28 long years of trying, which just goes to show how difficult it is to qualify, because you come up against really strong teams like Costa Rica, USA and Mexico. They’re very tough sides to play in their own backyards. We did really well in 2010 though. In the qualifiers you have to make the most of your home matches, and we lost just one of them, to USA, and won all the rest.

We had a really good generation of players, with a lot of guys playing in Europe. And we also have to thank USA too because they helped us go through by scoring in the last minute against Costa Rica.

Honduras pose for a team group before the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup 

What are your memories of that last day of the qualifiers, when Honduras beat El Salvador with a Carlos Pavon goal that you set up and USA drew 2-2 with Costa Rica?

Our match was amazing. We were away but it was the first time ever that Honduras played ‘at home’ in a foreign country. I reckon at least half the 40,000 crowd were Honduran. It was an incredible atmosphere.

We won but the USA-Costa Rica game was still going on when our match finished. You can imagine what those five minutes were like for us: the longest of my whole career (laughs)! We stayed on the pitch waiting for the match to end. We thought we were out and then USA scored very late on, which meant another celebration. We couldn’t have been happier.

Coached by Reinaldo Rueda, what was special about the team that made history by qualifying for South Africa?

Aside from the European experience that a lot of us had, another key factor was having a coaching team that had worked with us for four years. There was nothing improvised about it and it helped Rueda to get to know the players well, to pick out a captain like Amado Guevara and to blend homegrown players with those of us playing abroad. It all helped create a very strong team.

David Suazo of Honduras runs between Joan Capdevila (L) and Sergio Busquets of Spain

What was it like to play at the World Cup after so many years of waiting?

I ended my national team career on a high because going to and playing at the World Cup is what every player aspires to. I thank God that I was able to do that with a great team. We also showed the way forward because Honduras went and qualified for the next World Cup, which helped all these youngsters believe that we could be in the regional elite.

After missing out on Russia 2018, Honduras are about to have another crack at World Cup qualification. How do you rate their chances of making it to Qatar?

It’s a very young side and I know that the coach, Fabian Coito, will do a really good job, because he’s got a very promising squad of players. There are a lot of youngsters but they’ve got quality.

Who do you think are the key players in the squad?

The experience of Maynor Figueroa and Emilio Izaguirre is going to help and the Honduras forward line has a lot of promise about it too: Anthony Lozano, who plays in Spain; Alberth Elis, who plays for Houston Dynamo; and Romell Quioto (Montreal Impact). All three of them are match-winners. I hope they believe it too, because they’ve got all the makings of being match-winners.

Honduras have gone straight into the third and final round of the qualifiers, but we now know the groups for the first round. Which teams do you see making it out of those groups and going far?

The groups look very tight but I think Canada in Group B and Panama in D, are the two sides who definitely won’t have any problems qualifying. Canada are producing young players with big reputations and Panama are coming in after qualifying for Russia 2018, their first ever World Cup. That’s created some big expectations for them.

The final eight-team round is going to be a real battle. When you come up against the regional big guns, things get even harder, but I think that Canada and Panama have a chance to compete right till the end.

Who are your favourites to claim Concacaf's 3.5 qualification places?

These preliminaries will show us what the standard is like in Concacaf. In the end, though, I think Mexico, USA, Honduras and Costa Rica are the favourites to make it to Qatar. It’s going to be tough because it’s a very long road, but I reckon those four teams will be fighting it out for the qualification places. They’ve got the quality to do it.