BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) - Poor little Honduras have been ejected from Latin America’s World Cup party.
The Central Americans go home with the dispiriting knowledge that they are the only Latin American side to fail to qualify for the knockout round. Not only that, they were unable to score any goals.
The Hondurans did manage to salvage some dignity as they headed for the door, holding a Swiss team who had earlier beaten Spain to a 0-0 draw and denying them a place in the last 16.
But for coach Reinaldo Rueda, it was a case of too little, too late.
“We shouldn’t have waited until the last match to show our talents, we should have done it in the first match,” he said after the match. “It was our dream to go into the next round. We did not unleash that potential.”
In the opening game, Honduras seemed to suffer an attack of stage fright and went down 1-0 to Chile. Next they were unfortunate to meet a Spanish team on blazing form and were lucky the score was only 2-0, although Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque praised them afterwards for their adventurous spirit.
“We had lost two matches and it is difficult to play well after that,” Rueda said.
Still, Honduras played some attractive soccer against Switzerland and had they been more decisive in front of the goal, they could have claimed their first ever World Cup victory.
Rueda also had to contend with a bout of player dissent instigated by Victor Bernardez and suggestions in the Honduran media that the unfancied side were happy enough just to be in South Africa.
But he can take heart from some good performances from the likes of David Suazo and Edgard Alvarez.
It was only the nation’s second appearance in the World Cup and it probably still remains best known for going to war with neighboring El Salvador during the qualifiers for the 1970 tournament in the so-called “Soccer War.”
Political turmoil also lay in the background to this campaign. Captain and goalkeeper Noel Valladares alluded to the difficulties of raising the standards of the game in one of the poorest countries in the Americas.
“In Honduras, we must improve many things. We lack infrastructure, we lack facilities,” he said.
On the eve of the Swiss game, Rueda had urged his team to play for the honor and the dignity of the nation of 8 million people and he praised them for doing just that against the Swiss.
“They knew what this game meant for the nation. They really showed their courage and brought everything they had,” he said.
Editing by Michael Holden