Figueroa wants to write new chapter
Unrealistic expectation weighs heavy on Honduras as they prepare for only the country's second World Cup appearance and first for 28 years. The Central Americans nervously sneaked through qualifying as a defeat to the USA in their penultimate match meant their destiny was no longer in their hands. But they beat El Salvador and were eternally grateful to the Americans when they secured a draw against Costa Rica with a late equaliser. That gave them a chance to follow in the footsteps of the team of 1982, who travelled to the tournament in Spain and acquitted themselves well with a draw against the hosts. Coincidence pits them against the same opposition again - as well as Chile and Switzerland - only this time the Spanish are European champions and one of the major favourites to win. Defender Maynor Figueroa insists they are outsiders in that group but the squad are keen to at least emulate the achievements of their predecessors. "We were getting tired of hearing the same old story over and over again for 27 years," said the left-back. "It was getting to us. But in reaching the second finals in the country's history, we haven't changed the story so much as added a new chapter to it. "We have our own style, which works, and we're not going to change now. "There are some very good sides and if there's a minnow in the group, then it's Honduras. "But I'd just like to point out, though, that it's often the supposedly little teams who cause the most problems for the big ones. "It's a privilege for us to take on the favourites for the World Cup, the best team in the world. "Maybe there are some teams out there who would prefer to avoid them, but not us. "Playing them will give us a good indication of whether we can go on and achieve bigger things. "Nobody prepares just to lose. We want to win and we'll fight to the death to achieve it." Figueroa knows plenty about the underdog role playing for Wigan in the Premier League. Unspectacular but solid and dependable, the 27-year-old Figueroa has carved out something of a reputation for himself in England. He arrived as a complete unknown from Deportivo Olimpia initially on loan but quickly earned a permanent contract from then manager Steve Bruce. Virtually an ever-present at Wigan, within a year he was being linked with a big-money move to Sunderland, where Bruce had moved to in the summer of 2009. However, he turned down the chance to leave by signing a new deal with the Latics, where he feels settled. "Maynor has been outstanding all season. He's a top professional, undoubtedly one of the best I have worked with in my time in the game," said current Wigan boss Roberto Martinez. "We know we're not going to be able to keep him forever but until then we'll keep enjoying the quality of his defending and the quality of his free-kicks." What made Honduras' qualification all the more important was that it helped bring some common ground to a country being torn apart by political turmoil. Even though Figueroa has found a new base in England, it did not mean he was detached from what was happening in his homeland. "We had even more responsibility on us [to qualify] because it was the only source of happiness for the Honduran people at what was a very difficult time," he added. "Luckily we made it and it helped people take their minds off what was going on." This season Figueroa has been joined by international and former Olimpia team-mate Hendry Thomas, the combative central midfielder. The 25-year-old has maybe not yet established himself as well as Figueroa but has had a good debut season and believes playing in English football can only help his international ambitions. "The game is much faster here and I struggled with that at first," he admitted. "I've got used to the way they play here though and I feel great now." He has certainly impressed his Spanish manager, who added: "He's a kid who has come on really well. "I can honestly see him succeeding at a big team in Europe. He has a lot of qualities." But despite of talk of bigger, brighter futures for both Figueroa and Thomas their focus, for now, is firmly on South Africa. "We need to take each game as it comes," said Thomas. "We don't want to go and try and win the second match before we've even played the first."
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