Whenever Mexico heads south to Central America it becomes the biggest game of the year for that country, be it in Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras. The fans love to welcome Mexico with boos and make the visit as hostile as possible. The press embrace the ability to build up the game as David - Goliath. The players and coaches want the chance to prove that they’re equals to the team that has dominated the region for so long. They want the chance to knock the Mexican fans, the Mexican press, the players and coaches down a peg or two. Yet no team seems to thrive off from that setting more than Honduras.
On Tuesday that’s just where Mexico finds themselves. After making easy workof El Salvador at home to begin Group A play, Juan Carlos Osorio now heads to Honduras to face one of the most challenging visits in the CONCACAF region.
With all the Gold Cups, World Cup appearances (Germany and Brazil are the only other countries to make it out of every group stage besides Mexico since 1994), the one place Mexico has yet to conquer in a half century is Honduras in their capital city of San Pedro Sula. With a three o’clock local time kick off set for their match, the weather will be in the high 80’s or low 90’s with high humidity and a chance of showers. The idea for the Hondurans is that the Central American heat should play against the very European based team Mexico will most likely play with.
J.C. Osorio will likely change the lineup slightly from their win on Friday with a good possibility of Diego Reyes and Jorge Torres Nilo joining Miguel Layun and Hector Moreno on the backline. Also, look for Mexico to go from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 and play with a defensive midfielder this time around with either Jonathan Dos Santos or Juan Jose Vasquez getting the nod to try and give a bit more support to the other midfielders. There’s little doubt that Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez will play, who plays alongside them will be the question and that might not be answered till close to game time.
While the surroundings for Mexico will be tough, El Tri might have their best chance to leave San Pedro Sula with three points for quite some time. Since the 2014 World Cup, Honduras hasn’t been the same. They were the last team to qualify to the 2015 Gold Cup and were bounced in the group stage of the summer tournament (which means they won't play in the 2016 Copa America). They also started their group play with a 1-0 defeat in Canada, which makes this game vital for them if they hope to qualify for the Hex. A defeat to Mexico would leave them in a tough place in their next set of group matches if Canada were also able to get three points from their trip to El Salvador.
Honduras manager Jorge Luis Pinto though, will remind you how he’s had the upper hand over fellow Colombian and new Mexican coach J.C. Osorio. He will also remind you how as the coach of Costa Rica during the last cycle he didn’t lose to Mexico in the Hex, and neither did Honduras. Last time around he also labeled the Mexican National Team as full of themselves.
The layers are deep, the dislike is real, and Mexico enters into a place of uncomfortable circumstances. However, what Mexico has on Tuesday is the opportunity to crush a half century long Honduran nightmare.