Goalkeeper Donis Escober (pictured) is confident heading into Honduras' World Cup qualifier at Mexico on September 6, 2013. (Photo: Mexsport)
SUNRISE, Florida – Only once in World Cup Qualifying history has Mexico lost at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. That momentous day came on June 16, 2001, courtesy of an 86th minute goal by Hernan Medford, giving Costa Rica an improbable 2-1 come-from-behind victory.
Even though the Mexicans have not lost at the Azteca in the final round of qualifying for Brazil 2014, they have drawn three straight games, all of them finishing at 0-0.
That fact, combined with a confidence in its own ability, gives Honduras faith that it can be the next side to register a qualifying win at one of the world’s most famous stadiums, when it meets El Tri in the CONCACAF Hexagonal on Friday.
It is, undoubtedly, a great challenge for the fourth-place Catrachos (7 points), who have lost each of their seven all-time qualifiers at third place-Mexico (8 points) and trail the CONCACAF power by one point in the standings. Four years ago, they came close to obtaining that point, but Cuahtemoc Blanco’s penalty kick with 14 minutes left in regulation lifted the home side to another triumph.
To prepare for the pivotal encounter, Honduras is training in Sunrise, Florida, and goalkeeper Donis Escober believes a strong mental approach will be essential.
“There are a lot of experts who are going against us, but with a team fully focused, there are no obstacles,” said Escober. “There is nothing impossible. It can be against the fans, the altitude, or that they are strong at home, there is nothing easy. But the mindset that we have is that we come into this game mentally strong and we’ll take the field 100 percent sure that things are going to go well.”
Honduras qualified for the 2010 World Cup with 16 points, nipping Costa Rica on goal difference for CONCACAF’s last automatic spot in South Africa. During that campaign, it had only one draw in 10 games. It already has one in six this time around, but a point in Mexico will still be valuable.
“Apart from the points that we have to get at home, winning or earning a point away is important,” continued Escober. “To take a point or three points on that field is worth a lot. The mindset is that we have is if we can achieve and earn four points (from the next two qualifiers), that would put us on the doorstep of qualifying.”
A win at the Azteca may put the Hondurans one step across the threshold.