Morocco-Honduras Preview

BY foxsports • July 25, 2012

Morocco and Honduras are probably considered outsiders in Group D, so a victory would prove vital for either side as they meet Thursday at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

These teams have been drawn into a group with Spain and Japan, who meet in the second game of this doubleheader in Scotland's largest city. That means three points in this contest could go a long way toward gaining a spot in the quarterfinals.

"Winning the first game is the key to qualifying from the group stage," Morocco coach Pim Verbeek told "I hope we can achieve our objective and that the fans get behind us, so we can get good results and show the world what Moroccan football is all about."

Verbeek is one of the more notable names involved this matchup. The Dutchman has made plenty of stops during a lengthy coaching career, most recently guiding Australia in the World Cup in 2010, and had coached South Korea prior to that.

Morocco will be making its seventh Olympic appearance, and could be poised for success. Many of its players have experience in Europe, with midfielder Houssine Kharja most recently playing for Italian club Fiorentina and defender El Kaoutari Abdelhamid playing last season for French champion Montpellier.

Verbeek has said in the build-up to the Olympics that he is worried about the effects his players may feel from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

The only time Morocco reached the knockout stages of the Olympics was in 1972. The team qualified for London as the runner-up in last year's CAF tournament - with Morocco hosting that competition.

Honduras has qualified for its third Olympics - all within the last four Games. It captured all three warm-up matches before the tournament, including a 1-0 victory over an Egypt team Morocco defeated 3-2 in the CAF tournament last year.

Coach Ramon Maradiaga's team was the runner-up in the CONCACAF region to Mexico and is hoping for a better showing than four years ago in Beijing, where it was outscored 5-0 in losing all three games.

"The motivation to attain goals, bring happiness to the country and to know that this group of players, each of whom went through obstacles, all became pioneers in writing this chapter in the history of Honduran football, filled me with great pride that the objective was achieved," Maradiaga told CONCACAF's official website after his team qualified.

All three overage players Maradiaga chose for the squad play overseas, led by Maynor Figueroa - a defender for Wigan Athletic of the English Premier League.

The other two are in the United States with MLS - Jerry Bengtson for New England and Roger Espinoza for Sporting Kansas City. Espinoza started twice for the senior national team in the World Cup two years ago heading into his Olympic debut.

"It's very exciting and something I hoped would happen in my career," Espinoza told Sporting KC's official website. "The coach knows I am working really hard. I'm very happy and proud to be given the opportunity to represent Honduras."

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