What: Spain vs. Honduras, Group H, Matchday 2
When: Monday, June 21, 2010, 2:30 pm ET
Where: Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
Before Italy’s lifeless draw with New Zealand in Group G, Spain’s 1-0 flop against Switzerland in Group H was undoubtedly the upset of the tournament. But still, the Spaniards are the biggest team to take a dent thus far in South Africa, and they need a result against a beatable Honduras side that clawed just to keep pace in 1-0 loss to Chile in their opener.
This is arguably one of the most one-sided matches of the tournament, at least on paper. Spain is still one of the titans in South Africa despite their loss to the Swiss, and Honduras crept into the tournament as the third side from oft-maligned CONCACAF. Spain should enjoy a resounding return to form, but when it comes to European powers in this World Cup, it seems no one is safe.
The Spaniards played quintessentially gorgeous soccer for much of their opener and dominated the possession, but where were the goals? They struggled all day to finish when it counted against Switzerland, loudly punctuated by Xabi Alonso’s blistering strike off the crossbar in the 70th minute. All wood, no good.
Spain couldn’t much more than chalk the loss up to tough luck, rather than to the merits of a Swiss team that was, in fact, outplayed for large chunks of the match.
"Today wasn't our day," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. "We have two games ahead of us. We have to find a way to win them."
That shouldn’t be difficult with this lineup, even though Andres Iniesta isn’t likely at 100 percent after coming out of the Switzerland loss after a rough tackle in the 77th minute. Forwards David Villa and Fernando Torres (who managed six shots in just 29 minutes off the bench) need to convert, and then perhaps the Spaniards can ease back into the race in the group.
Los Catrachos performed admirably in an opening loss to Chile, but they were simply outdone by a superior team. Don’t expect the tune to change against Spain. Honduras was one of the last teams to book their flights to South Africa and drew the group’s toughest two sides right out of the gate.
Still, there is hope. Goalkeeper Noel Valladeres showed moments of brilliance in the loss to Chile, and lesser teams can always ride a solid goalkeeper to unexpected results. They’re dependent on former MLS star Amado Guevara, who’s making his first – and likely last – run at the World Cup, and Guevara has proven over the years that he’s dangerous and dependable.
"They are not invincible and we must work hard to win, it will be a duel because they have strong technique and we must not allow them time to think,” Guevara said of Spain. “Within the group we have prepared ourselves mentally to believe that we can win and progress into the last 16.”
Kansas City Wizards midfielder Roger Espinoza logged all 90 minutes in his World Cup debut, and is likely to gain perhaps the best experience of his career against Spain, one of the world’s best.
Players to Watch
Spain: David Villa. Nothing went right and nothing went in for the Euro 2008 Golden Boot winner against Switzerland. He needs to find the scoring touch soon to help Spain find their form.
Honduras: Ramon Nuñez. The former Dallas Burn and Chivas USA player had three of Honduras’ seven shots against Chile. He’ll need to shine if his underdog side has a chance.
Don’t expect Spain’s nosedive to last long. They’re still one of the top five teams in South Africa, facing one of the five worst on Monday. Figure the three points are a given for Villa & Co.