Hondurans must shake off first game nerves

NELSPRUIT, South Africa Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:11pm IST

A Honduras supporter adjusts a flag she is wearing after a public screening of their World Cup soccer match against Chile, in Tegucigalpa June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

A Honduras supporter adjusts a flag she is wearing after a public screening of their World Cup soccer match against Chile, in Tegucigalpa June 16, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Edgard Garrido

NELSPRUIT, South Africa (Reuters) - Central American underdogs Honduras will have to shake off stage fright and get over a late injury loss if they are to get anything from their next game with Group H favourites Spain.

Honduras, one of the least fancied World Cup sides, lost 1-0 to Chile in their opening game in Nelspruit on Wednesday.

They only just made it to the finals in South Africa but expectations are high in the poor country, which last qualified for the tournament in 1982, and assistant coach Alexis Mendoza said that had proved a weighty burden.

"When you start playing the first match in the World Cup it's difficult. Honduras was absent for 28 years and that's a heavy responsibility to deal with," he told reporters after Wednesday's game.

"We weren't able to unleash all our forces on the pitch."

Next up for Honduras are Spain, who entered the tournament as favourites but suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat in their opening group game against Switzerland.

"Spain are favourites and we respect them. We will play and try to overcome our stage fright," he said in comments before Switzerland's victory.

Honduras's uphill struggle looked even tougher this week after midfielder Julio Cesar de Leon, nicknamed Rambo, was ruled out with a thigh injury.

Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda summoned Jerry Palacios from his Chinese club to join his brothers Wilson and Johnny in the squad, and made World Cup history in the process.

"Throughout our preparation we'd worked specifically with players who ended up being ruled out," said defender Maynor Figueroa.

The Hondurans were also without David Suazo, who is recovering from a muscle injury and who remained on the bench on Wednesday, although Mendoza said he hoped the striker would be able to return for the upcoming games.

Captain Amado Guevara said the players would get over their nerves to mount a more convincing challenge to the Spanish.

"Things are definitely going to be different against Spain because the team will have more confidence regardless of who the rival is," Guevara told Reuters.

"It's all down to state of mind. We have to be really sure of ourselves and score because in this next game we need total concentration. We can't make any mistakes."

(Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Michael Holden)

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