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Gold Cup 2015 Profile: Honduras

The latest installment in our preview of this month's Gold Cup competition in the United States and Canada sees us take a closer look at Honduras

Andy Najar could be a young star of this summer's Gold Cup
Andy Najar could be a young star of this summer's Gold Cup
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Despite lingering in the lower echelons of football's world rankings, Honduras could well be a side to watch out for at this year's Gold Cup. The side have slipped to number 75 in the world - only 20 places above their all-time lowest ranking - but their secret weapon could be a manager that inspires teams that are seemingly lacking in star quality.

Honduras finished third in the CONCACAF qualifying for the World Cup, behind only the United States and Costa Rica, only to continue their record of never winning a match in three World Cups as they were comprehensively beaten by France, Ecuador and Switzerland.

The Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto

Veteran Colombian coach Pinto is in his 31st year of football manager, at the grand old age of 62. But possibly the highlight of his career was leading the excellent Costa Rica side that performed admirably to reach the Quarter Finals at last year's World Cup.

Pinto led Costa Rica to perform well above their expectations last summer, and could well inspire a Honduras side that is equally low on expectations to a shock performance. He's picked a squad that is youthful and appears to be building for the future with an absence of key players.

Pinto is somewhat of an outspoken character, but was voted the CONCACAF Coach of the Year and Best Colombian Coach for 2014. His previous three decades of coaching have largely been spent in the Colombian leagues, as well as a spell in charge of the Colombian national side between 2007 and 2008.

Key Man: Andy Najar

Young winger Andy Najar has the potential to be a star of this year's Gold Cup. Najar is one of the youngsters in whom coach Pinto has thrusted his trust, and the 22-year-old will fancy his chances of repaying that faith. Signed from MLS side DC United in 2013, Najar has made 42 appearances for Belgian giant Anderlecht, scoring seven goals.

You may remember Najar as the player who scored the opening goal against Arsenal in this year's Champions League, before the Londoners prevented a shock result with two late goals. He already has 23 caps for Honduras, scoring three times.

Squad Members:

The Honduras squad features just seven players that ply their trade outside of their homeland. Their best known players include the nation's third most capped player Maynor Figueroa, who has 116 caps and was just released by Hull City, and 104 cap midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia.

An interesting area of selection has been the strikers, where the four selected forwards have only 27 caps and six goals between them.

Long-time Honduras representatives Carlo Costly, who has 32 goals in 73 caps, Jerry Bengtson, who has 20 goals in 49 appearances, and rumoured to be Bolton Wanderers target Wilson Palacios, who has 97 caps for the country, will not be involved.

Here is the 23-man squad selected by Pinto.

Goalkeepers: Noel Valladares (Olimpia), Donis Escober (Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real Espana)

Defenders: Maynor Figueroa (no club), Brayan Beckeles (Boavista), Johnny Leveron (Marathon), Johnny Palacios (Olimpia), Wilmer Crisanto (Motagua), Henry Figueroa (Motagua), Brayan Garcia (Vida), Ever Alvarado (Olimpia)

Midfielders: Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo), Jorge Claros (Qingdao Jonoon), Mario Martinez (Real Espana), Andy Najar (Anderlecht), Alfredo Mejia (Panthrakikos), Carlos Discua (Motagua), Romell Quioto (Olimpia), Bryan Acosta (Real Espana)

Forwards: Anthony Lozano (Olimpia), Rubilio Costilla (Motagua), Eddie Hernandez (UAT), Erick Andino (Motagua)

Chances of Winning:

The world rankings tell you that Honduras have little to no chance of any success at the Gold Cup, but with Pinto in charge it's possible they could spring a surprise or two. They will have their work cut out as they have to face both of the last Gold Cup's finalists United States and Panama, with minnows Haiti completing Group A.