With the Panamanians looking certain to take three points off Cuba in Panama City tonight, as the top two finishers in Canada’s group advance to the region’s final round, Honduras can’t afford to fall six points off the pace with four matches remaining.
“Honduras, I thought, played very well and just didn’t finish their chances,” Hart said of Panama’s surprising 2-0 away win. “They have good quality, a lot of experience in key positions and they’ll be difficult.”
In their defence, it took two wonder goals from Panama’s Blas Perez to unsettle what on paper should be a rock-solid Honduran defence. Toronto FC supporters will remember San Jose’s towering central defender Victor Bernardez while Maynor Figueroa has Premier League experience with Wigan.
In the Honduran midfield, Stoke City’s Wilson Palacios could partner with Sporting Kansas City’s Roger Espinoza, who missed his side’s opening qualifier through a yellow-card suspension, to anchor a middle third that’s capable of playing in tight spaces and providing a final pass.
Whereas the Cubans endlessly defended and looked to steal a goal on the counter, Hart expects tonight’s visitors to be more methodical in their approach.
“A lot of athleticism and technical ability,” Canada’s head coach said when asked for a brief scouting report on Honduras. “They have some good wide play and of course (Carlo) Costly up front is a big man and is a handful.”
But while the quality is obviously there, as seen four days ago in San Pedro Sula, Central American sides have a tendency to lose discipline. Stories circulating among Honduran media yesterday presented a worried side currently playing under an enormous level of domestic pressure.
“Very rare you see Honduras lose at home,” Dwayne De Rosario said of the added desperation Honduras will be playing with. “We know they’re going to be coming in here anxious to walk away with three points and we’re going to do what we can to deny them that.”
Although Hart eluded to making a few slight changes ahead of tonight, with Atiba Hutchinson still unlikely to start, expect Canada to begin tonight with roughly the same 4-5-1 formation that frustrated the U.S. and Cuba in back-to-back matches.
“They’re a wounded animal but Honduras has too much experience to be desperate,” Hart said before a rather smug remark. “They’re going to come in here thinking it’s only Canada and they can get a result here.”
Already earning a crucial result on the road, should Canada take maximum points in each of its three home games, it will qualify for CONCACAF’s final round for the first time since the late ’90s.
With back-to-back matches against Panama slated for September, the Reds must secure at least a share of the points tonight to stay in good position through the summer. A loss and the advantage gained in Havana disappears.
“We haven’t accomplished anything,” De Rosario said. “We have to approach every game one step at a time
We’ve definitely done our homework on Honduras and I think we’re all ready and focused for one game and coming out of BMO Field tomorrow with three points.”
KICKOFF -- Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifying -- Canada vs. Honduras -- BMO Field -- 730ET SN
DID YOU KNOW?
—Honduras beat Canada 2-1 in Montreal in the second of six third-round matches during 2010 qualifying — a blow that killed Canada’s chances of advancing. Canada lost 3-1 in Honduras a month later before finishing at the bottom of its group.
-Honduras qualified for the 2010 World Cup, securing a point through three games in a group that contained Spain, Chile and Switzerland.
CANADA WINS IF: It manages to contain the most dynamic attacking side in the group by cutting out quick combinations in midfield and passes in behind Canada’s slow outside backs. The Canadians simply must convert the chances they missed in Havana.
HONDURAS WINS IF: Its back line lives up to its billing and it stays discipline against a side that’s capable of frustrating better teams. Honduras has the players to top this group, but does it have the composure and conviction after last Friday’s loss?
Canada resumes qualifying on Sept. 7 and 11 with a home date against Panama before playing in Panama four days later. The Cubans visit BMO Field on Oct. 12 before the Reds go to the always intimidating Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, where it completes third round qualifying against Honduras.