OF the 32 teams taking part at this World Cup, no team comes close to matching Honduras for players with Wigan Athletic connections.
It might be an exaggeration to claim that every player in the Honduras squad has been in the frame for a move to the JJB at some point, but there are still a few in there.
Wilson Palacios used to play for the Latics, Maynor Figueroa and Hendry Thomas still do and Emilio Izaguirre is, by all accounts, about to. In addition, Wilson’s brother Johnny Palacios was strongly linked with a switch to the JJB in January – although it didn’t happen in the end – while Oscar Garcia had an unsuccessful trial with the club last August.
It may be that left-back Izaguirre’s pending move from Motogua makes him the last of Wigan’s new Hondurans. John Benson, who did much of the groundwork on the Palacios, Figueroa and Thomas signings, recently left his role as general manager at Wigan and has joined Sunderland.
Even so, if Honduras had turned out against Chile in Nelspruit this afternoon wearing blue-and-white striped shirts, I wouldn’t have been surprised. (I kept an eye out for any shots of Dave Whelan sitting in the stands, but there were none.)
Before the tournament, Hendry Thomas promised that Honduras would play entertaining football, but it was Chile who stole the show with some lovely one-touch football.
Chile breezed through qualifying, and their coach Marcelo Bielsa is so popular that there was a campaign to get him to run for president last year. Not bad, considering he is Argentinian.
He will be even more popular now that he has ended Chile’s 48-year wait to win a match at the World Cup finals. (You see, Baddiel and Skinner? You think England have had years and years of hurt? England won a match at the World Cup as recently as 2006, for goodness sake.)
Jean Beausejour’s first-half winner was a bit flukey, but Chile deserved the win. Honduras, for their part, showed a willingness to dig in that would have made Dave Whelan proud. Matching their performance of 1982 – when they drew two out of three group games, and came within three minutes of reaching the second stage – may prove trickier.
Anyway, time to catch up with the mood in the England camp.