• Friday Aug 03, 2012

    Mexico, Honduras face stiff opposition

    By Michael Lewis


    NEWCASTLE, England - Mexico and Honduras already have achieved some history by becoming the first two CONCACAF teams to reach the knockout round in the same Olympics. Now they're looking to further scale the heights on Saturday.

    Both sides find themselves a win away from the medal round -- the semifinals.

    The Mexicans will meet Olympic debutante Senegal at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday, while the Hondurans take on gold-medal favorite Brazil at Newcastle's St. James' Park.

    Honduras will face a much more difficult challenge because Brazil is well -- Brazil.

    "I'd like to look at the coming game as an opportunity to enjoy rather than something to take hardship from," Honduras coach Luis Suarez said. "What we've got to do is manage the situation well. Brazil is a superb team and they know how to play, but we certainly know how to play as well.

    "I don't want to look at this as a problem that doesn't have a solution, but rather as an opportunity and a challenge that we can overcome. To get here we played extremely well, we had to knock out Spain and we showed our strength in the other matches, so we deserve respect from Brazil."

    Suarez downplayed his team's role as the underdog, especially after the surprise 1-0 win over Spain, that helped secure second-place in Group D.

    "I don't think it's the case, because our players want something from this match," he said. "They want to go beyond the quarterfinal phase.

    "On the field we always see our opposition as equals and although some people would say Brazil are the favorites, we are here to play and to play well."

    The Hondurans are far from satisfied from just surviving the opening round. They have some greater Olympic dreams as well.

    "We want to go one step further and we always use a phrase before every match and that is that 'we must win after the match,'" Suarez said. "So we go on to the field believing we can win and if Brazil beats us on Saturday, it will be because they have been much, much better than we have. However, we will never doubt ourselves and never consider that we've lost the game before it's even started."

    Mexico finished atop Group B with two wins and a draw while not allowing a goal.

    "We made it through to the knockout stage because we are playing with the right attitude and we never give up," forward Marco Fabian said after the win over Switzerland. "Today we made some mistakes at the start of the match and that is something we shouldn't repeat in the future."

    Mexico has reached the medal round once, finishing in fourth place when it hosted the 1968 Games. But coach Luis Fernando Tena isn't fond of hearing about his team being a favorite.

    "We are not favorites to win the gold medal," he said. "Britain will be difficult as the host, Senegal is a strong team. It will be decided by the determination of the players and luck."

    Getting an opportunity to play in stadium such as Wembley is a once-in-a-lifetime oppotunity, although El Tri would love to make it there twice by reaching the August 9 final.

    "It is a legendary stadium to play in," Fabian said. "Our first objective is to qualify and for Mexico to be remembered in this championship. It will be difficult whoever we will play, but our focus is to win every game."

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