Honduras bowed out of the 2012 Olympic football tournament, Saturday, after losing 3-2 to Brazil at St. James’ Park. The matter of their defeat earned them no shortage of admirers, however—such was their commitment to the cause that even after being reduced to 10 men in the 33rd minute they quite nearly caused an upset. Mario Martinez, on loan at Seattle Sounders, and Sporting Kansas City’s Roger Espinoza were especially impressive, and the Newcastle crowd seemed to appreciate Espinoza, in particular.
Thankfully, we’ll get several chances over the next few years to see Honduras thrill on the international stage. Honduran football is experiencing a competitive cycle that began in the quadrennial ahead of the last World Cup and should last until after the current one. Many of the players who competed in the U-23 side at these Olympics are also full internationals, which means the group of them will continue to mature together ahead of next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and the World Cup in Brazil the year after that.
It was the 2009 FIFA Youth Championship that signalled the arrival of this generation of Honduran footballers. After coming third at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship the previous March Honduras opened their campaign in Egypt with a 3-0 win over Honduras (in which Martinez scored twice) before going out at the group stage. Several of the players who just participated in the Olympics were involved in that squad, and their contributions in the senior side will have a lot to do with whether Honduras can, for the first time, qualify for successive World Cups.
If this is a golden age for Honduran football it comes about 30 years after the last one. Honduras first took part in a World Cup in 1982—a tournament they qualified for after winning the CONCACAF Championship the previous year. Jose Roberto “Macho” Figueroa and Gilberto Yearwood were the stars of that team, and Macho’s goal against Canada in his side’s third-last match of the competition put Honduras en route to qualification.
Not surprisingly the 1977 FIFA Youth Championship was the springboard for several of the players who would represent Honduras in the World Cup five years later, and in 1976 Honduras came within a whisker of winning the CONCACAF U-20 Championship before losing the final to Mexico on penalties.
Cycles like the one Honduran football is currently experiencing typically last no longer than eight years at senior level—a couple years more if you include underage achievements. By the mid 1980s Honduras had receded into international anonymity, and if you do the math this generation of footballers will have peaked at or just after the next World Cup—10 years on from an appearance at the 2005 FIFA Youth Championship that marked the introduction of many of the current national team’s senior players to the international stage.
Argentina’s domestic season underway
Now that the Argentine Football Association has settled on a format and name for its first championship of the club season, fans can actually start following the games. The AFA only finalised the tournament configuration on Wednesday (the season started on Friday), and for the first time the winners of the opening and closing championships will meet in a “super final.”
The Torneo Inicial, now underway, has been named after former Argentine first lade Eva Peron, who passed away 60 years ago last month.
The big addition to the 2012-13 Primera Division season is Buenos Aires heavyweight River Plate, who spent the 2011-12 campaign in the second division after being relegated following a playoff against Belgrano de Cordoba. Ironalically, it will be Belgrano that River face in their first match on Sunday. Following their promotion the Cordoba side finished fourth in the Apertura before falling to 14th in the Clausura.
Arsenal de Sarandi, the Clausura holders, defeated Union de Santa Fe 1-0 in the schedule’s first match on Friday, and on Saturday the division saw its first upset of the season as promoted Quilmes walloped Boca Juniors 3-0 at the Centenario. Uruguayan forward Martin Cauternuccio, who scored 14 goals for Quilmes last season, bagged a brace for his side in the win.
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer