Maynor Figueroa

What are your earliest World Cup memories? I always remember Brazil games because I always followed the Brazil teams – France ’98 more than everything. I liked Roberto Carlos, Romario, Ronaldo and watched them closely. I don’t have exact memories of one game; just of watching Brazil and seeing them lose to France in the final. 

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What are the expectations from the people of Honduras? People are expecting a lot from us. They are happy and emotional because it’s been 28 years since we were at the World Cup. Even if we don’t win a game, they will be happy that we reached the finals. We finished above teams like Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago, both of which have played in the World Cup recently, to qualify. We beat Mexico twice too, which was great, but we also lost twice to the United States, who won the group. They say that’s enough, but you know what people are like. They always want more, so we have to work hard and do things with dignity.

Describe the mood among the players. We trust ourselves. There’s optimism and joy. But at the same time we have a responsibility to do our best.

Will you try and score from your own half in South Africa? Maybe! When I scored from my own half (in December 2009 against Stoke City), I looked up and saw the goalkeeper (Thomas Sorensen) out of his box and distracted. If I hit the target, I knew I had a good chance of scoring. I took the opportunity and, thanks to God, scored a beautiful goal. My family were at the stadium and we celebrated together. I’d do the same in the World Cup if I had the chance.

Is it true that your wife plays handball? And are you any good at that yourself? Yes, my wife is professional – she plays in Sheffield. She has played since she has been a child and she’s very dedicated to the sport. She is an international player too. Can I play? No. I leave that to her, just as she leaves the football to me.

What is it with Wigan and Honduras? Is it a hot holiday destination for Hondurans? Wilson (Palacios) was the first to get to Wigan, but after one good season he moved to Tottenham. He told me about Wigan before I moved. I wasn’t playing so much in the first six months, but we settled OK and like the town. Wigan is a calm and safe place. The people are beautiful and very well educated and respectful. I’ve tried a pie because they are popular here. I like to try different cultures, but I don’t eat so many pies.

Describe your life in England… My life is calm. We live in Warrington. If I’m not training, I’m with my family. I spend a lot of time on the internet looking at what happens in my country. I get more information about Honduras when I’m away than when I’m in my country. I don’t even use the internet there.

Have you and [Wigan and Honduras team-mate] Hendry Thomas talked much about the World Cup? Of course. We’ve spoken a lot about it because we excited about going. We both played in nearly all the qualifying games – over 15 each. We spend a lot of time travelling together.

Have you learned any Wigan words? It’s difficult for me to speak English. Sometimes I can understand but it’s hard to speak. I’ve not had classes for three months because the coach [Roberto Martinez] is from Spain and we speak in Spanish. But when we had Steve Bruce, I had more classes.

What do you tell people in Wigan about Honduras? That we have beautiful beaches, forests and islands. Many European people buy holiday houses there because it’s a beautiful place for tourism. The food and music is fantastic. I tell everyone that they should visit my country.

Every World Cup has a dark horse – are Honduras this summer’s dark horses? I think so. When someone doesn’t know our team and they go to get information about us, they get worried.

Others think that we’re a small team. They should be careful. We already know a lot about Spain, Chile and Switzerland, the teams we are playing. We have studied them closely. If they don’t know as much about us, they are in trouble.

The first game against Chile will be very important. To win the first game is always vital, because if you lose then the pressure creates a tense team atmosphere. We need to win that first game.

What do you think of the England team? It’s a team with an attacking philosophy. They have to go for goals all of the time. And they have four world class players: Rooney, Ferdinand, Lampard and Terry. Rooney, especially, is a player who influences the game even if he doesn’t score… but he usually scores.

Which Honduran players should we watch out for aside from the ones in the Premiership? Junior Izaguirre is a very good defender who plays on the left. Erick Norales is an excellent central defender who I play alongside. We’ve got a good mix of experienced players and young ones. I don’t think that I’m being disrespectful when I say it’s the best crop of players in the history of the country. Our defence is very solid, our midfield works hard. We are hard to beat.

Describe the Honduras style of football. Everything depends on the rival team and the conditions. At home, we tend to attack more. When we’re away we tend to be more defensive, but we try to play a tactical game. We have fast players to attack and we’ll need to use them in South Africa.

And the coach, Reinaldo Rueda? He’s Colombian and very good. He took charge in 2007 and immediately began to gel with the players. All the technical team are Colombian and they are excellent – very professional.

Interview: June 2010.

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