Juan Carlos Osorio may have made a winning start to life as Mexico coach, but his second match in charge will see him faced with the challenge of accomplishing something that no El Tri boss has managed in 50 years -- win in San Pedro Sula. Not since Mexico’s first visit to the stifling Honduran city has it managed to emerge with a victory. Extended to all matches in Honduras, it has still been 22 years and five matches since Mexico came out on top. As the United States also found when going down to defeat on its last visit there in World Cup qualifying in 2013, an away clash with Honduras is one of Concacaf’s toughest assignments.
Still, Mexico makes its latest venture to San Pedro Sula in healthy shape. A 3-0 victory over El Salvador at the Estadio Azteca last Friday was as smooth a beginning to life in one of world soccer’s most demanding coaching posts as Osorio could have wished for. With Honduras suffering the disappointment of a 1-0 defeat in Canada on the same night, Osorio is keen to take the chance to end Mexico’s winless streak.
“What motivates me is a great possibility; the statistics are there and you try to change them,” he said in his pre-match news conference. “In the football world, regardless of what level, the game is the same. It’s good to be here, I think it's a tremendous opportunity, not only for me, again, that's irrelevant, the most important thing is for Mexico, for the national team, for the country.”
As has becomes its custom, Honduras has again chosen to hold the match in the peak afternoon sun. Another hurdle for the visitors could be the state of the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitan pitch, which Mexico captain Andrés Guardado described as “heavy.” On its last visit to the stadium, Mexico established a two-goal lead, but couldn’t hold on, as Honduras fought back to claim a 2-2 draw. Despite Mexico currently topping the four-team group, in which the top two will progress to the final round of qualifying, Osorio insists that there will be no thoughts of simply trying to play for a point this time around.
“We will never give up the offensive play of Mexico and our players,” he said. “Looking at the starting lineup you will realize that, while respecting and understanding the rival we face, we are never going to give up the team’s offensive identity.”
Osorio has hinted that he could make several changes to the team that beat El Salvador, with there even being suggestions that Javier “Chicharito” Hernández could start from the bench. One player definitely out is injured defender Jorge Torres Nilo, while Benfica striker Raúl Jiménez is a fitness doubt.
For Honduras, the visit of Mexico is always an eagerly anticipated occasion. But this time around, the match has even greater significance given the team’s loss in Toronto. Honduras has qualified for the last two World Cups, but a defeat on Tuesday would seriously jeopardize its chances of even making it to the final qualifying round “Hexagonal.”
Still, coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who will come up against a fellow Colombian in Osorio, has described Mexico as the “favorites” for the contest. Pinto took charge of Honduras last year after leaving Costa Rica shortly after guiding the team to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. His main injury doubt on Tuesday is over forward Anthony Lozano.
Kickoff time: 4 p.m. EST
TV channel: beIN Sports, Telemundo, NBC Universo