CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez is set to ring the changes when his team faces Ecuador on Friday in a Group E match that could end either team’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Confirming Thursday that Jorge Claros will replace the suspended defensive midfielder Wilson Palacios, Suarez said there would be more changes but they would only be announced closer to the start of the match at Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada.
“There will be some changes, you will know and learn about these tomorrow,” Suarez said. “I have told you about Jorge already.”
The 28-year-old Claros, who went on as a substitute against France, said he was “privileged” to play in a match where so much was at stake.
The game takes place just after France and Switzerland play. If the two European sides draw, then defeat for either Ecuador or Honduras would kill off any hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages. Ecuador lost its opening game against Switzerland 2-1 with virtually the last kick of the match. To get anywhere near qualifying for the knockout stages, Honduras, in its third appearance in the World Cup finals, will have to win for the first time at football’s biggest tournament. And to win on Friday, it will have to score its first World Cup goal since 1982.
In a very real sense, Claros is lucky to be playing in the match. A little over three years ago, Claros suffered head wounds when attackers shot at him during an apparent attempt to steal his car at a petrol station near the small Central American country’s Atlantic coast. Claros was able to drive himself to the hospital and was back playing football a few weeks later.
Suarez’s team came under criticism for being overly-defensive and rough during the defeat against France.
“We ran away from football in the last match,” he said. “It seems to me we were missing something … we needed more confidence with the ball.”
The match is notable for the links between the two coaches, both of whom are Colombian and good friends.
While Suarez is a former coach of Ecuador, steering the team to the second round in 2006 – its best-ever World Cup performance – his counterpart for Ecuador, Reinaldo Rueda, previously coached Honduras, guiding the Central American country to its first World Cup finals in 28 years in South Africa in 2010.
Suarez said the coincidences would have no bearing on the game and that the two had not been in communication recently.
“I am fully grateful for all (Ecuador) gave me but I have to acknowledge everything that Honduras has given me,” he said. “They’ve also given me the possibility of being at the World Cup again and the opportunity of growing as a coach.”
He said he and Rueda both know what’s at stake tomorrow.
“In the case of clashes, this is not between coaches, it’s between two football teams,” he said.
Rueda said he didn’t have an advantage over Suarez just because his term as coach of Honduras was more recent than his counterpart’s of Ecuador. He praised Suarez for what he’s done since he took the helm in 2011, which included getting his team to the quarterfinal of the 2012 Olympic Games in London where it narrowly lost to Brazil 3-2.