Maynor Figueroa (white jersey) was called up to Honduras for its 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup playoff against French Guiana. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
CAYENNE, French Guiana – If Honduras is to qualify for a seventh straight CONCACAF Gold Cup, it must prevail over French Guiana in a tricky two-legged playoff, which opens Wednesday in the French overseas region’s Stade Dr. Edmard Lama.
The Catrachos finished fifth in the 2014 Central American Cup, necessitating their participation in the winner-take-all series that offers one last ticket to the Confederation’s biennial showcase for national teams.
"We can only talk about winning, here you are not allowed to think otherwise,” said defender Emilio Izaguirre. “Honduras simply is obliged to qualify.”
This isn’t the first time that the Hondurans were required to travel an alternate Gold Cup route. In 2003, they defeated Trinidad & Tobago (2-0) and Martinique (4-2) in a triangular playoff to earn a spot.
As always, expectations are high and failure to advance is not an option.
"Honduras is a CONCACAF giant,” commented midfielder Roger Espinoza. “We've always been in recent tournaments and we cannot miss this time. We know that the opponent also wants to be in the tournament, so it will not be easy to beat them."
The French Guianese finished fifth in last year’s Caribbean Cup to secure a meeting with the 2014 World Cup participant. Since it is not a member of FIFA, French Guiana does not participate in World Cup qualifying. As a result, it poses somewhat of a mystery.
"It was difficult, but we have enough to learn what we need to do in that first game," said head coach Jorge Luis Pinto.
Honduras traveled Monday morning to Cayenne on a private flight from San Pedro Sula. Along the way, it made stops in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
The lengthy trip back for the second leg will be made easier with a positive result on South American soil.
(CONCACAF Gold Cup playoff: March 25, 2015, away v French Guiana)
GOALKEEPERS: Donis Escober (Olimpia), Noel Valladares (Olimpia), Orlin Vallecillo (Honduras Progreso)
DEFENDERS: Bryan Beckeles (Boavista/Portugal), Henry Clark (Real Sociedad), Wilmer Crisanto (Motagua), Henry Figueroa (Motagua), Maynor Figueroa (Hull City/England), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic/Scotland), Johnny Leveron (Marathon), Carlos Palacios (Marathon)
MIDFIELDERS: Bryan Acosta (Real España), Carlos Discua (Motagua), Roger Espinoza (Sporting Kansas/USA), Oscar Boniek García (Houston Dynamo/USA), Luis Garrido (Houston Dynamo/USA), Mario Martínez (Real España), Andy Najar (Anderlecht/Belgium), Arnold Peralta (Olimpia)
FORWARDS: Jerry Bengtson (Belgrano/Argentina), Rubilio Castillo (Motagua), Eddie Hernandez (Correcaminos/Mexico), Antony Lozano (Olimpia)