Over the last World Cup qualifying cycle, Honduras established themselves as part of a clear second tier in CONCACAF, level with Costa Rica. Even without David Suazo, a striker with Olympic-quality speed who was at one point in time the best player in CONCACAF, Los Catrachos qualified for the 2010 World Cup. In this competition, the 2011 Gold Cup (Copa Oro), they're still without Suazo, but the other players they're missing might be more important. Tonight, 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez and Mexico face a weakened defense, and they should probably have a field day.
Of course, we all know that Mexico are prone to slow starts. Eben wrote in his Mexico vs. Honduras preview that El Tri should not take Los Catrachos lightly. I happen to agree with him, but that doesn't mean that Mexico shouldn't be able to win, and win comfortably. A lot of that has to do with the attacking power that has been lost with Suazo's various injuries, but more of it has to do with Honduras's now suspect defense, after they were forced to leave their two best out of this team.
Last year, Celtic FC in Scotland purchased Emilio Izaguirre for less than £1 million. A year later, he is widely considered to be the best left back in the Scottish Premier League. He's sought after by some very big clubs, and Celtic have set his asking price at £11 million. It may seem like a steep price, but after his performances last year, they're well withing their rights to demand that much money.
Izaguirre will not be playing tonight, and neither will long-time starter Maynor Figueroa. While Osman Chavez, Victor Bernardez, and Mauricio Sabillon are solid defenders, there is no question that Figueroa and Izaguirre are the two best that Honduras has to offer. Without them in the team, they're a much weaker side, without question. They're on a level similar to Mexico's front four and would have challenged them. The current back line shouldn't if El Tri play up to their potential.
A Honduras team with Carlo Costly, David Suazo, Wilson Palacios, Emilio Izaguirre, and Maynor Figueroa 100 percent healthy can challenge the United States and Mexico in any game, in any CONCACAF competition. Unfortunately, those players have never all been healthy and available at the same time, and Los Catrachos will probably never reach the potential that they had with this generation of players.