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From Play-Off Agony To World Cup Hope For Wigan’s Roger Espinoza

By Jack Skelton

WIGAN’S play-off nightmare could turn to World Cup dreams for Roger Espinoza who wasted no time in turning his attentions to Honduras’ battle against the odds in Brazil next month.

The 27-year-old jetted off to America to meet up with his international team-mates straight after the Latics’ semi- final defeat against QPR last Monday.

Luis Fernando Suarez’s 23-man squad – which also includes Wigan’s Juan Carlos Garcia – will be put through their paces in the States before a friendly against England in Miami on June 7.

The versatile Espinoza is looking to get one over the Three Lions before turning his attention to France, Switzerland and Ecuador in Group E.

Espinoza will also be eyeing a place in Los Catrachos folklore, with his homeland never previously progressing beyond the first round.

“I am really looking forward to the World Cup and think we can do well in the group stage and could even cause a couple of upsets,” said Espinoza, who is hoping to make the starting line-up for the opener against France in Porto Alegre on June 15.

“We’re a team built on a new generation of Honduran players. We did very well in qualifying, which means we’re all positive and confident about our chances in the tournament.

“I might be in the team in time for the friendly against England. It just depends what our manager decides about when and where I play. Obviously we’ve all got to play some time to prepare for the tournament.”

Honduras, who will be appearing in their third World Cup finals, have never won a game and they failed to score a goal in their last appearance in 2010.

Mentality

But the squad this time around features six British-based players – Premier League regulars Maynor Figuero and Wilson Palacios of Hull and Stoke, as well as Celtic star Emilio Izaguirre and Arnold Peralta of Rangers among their ranks.

Espinoza, who has 34 caps for his country, insists the English style – and the gut-wrenching 2-1 defeat to QPR at Loftus Road – can actually aid their chances.

“The English live football and that’s something we can get on with. We love the atmosphere, which can be unbelievable like during (the QPR) game,” he added.

“I think Hondurans are attracted to English football because we have the right mentality and physicality to play here. Instead of going to America, a lot of us now like coming to England.

“It’s a place where football is very emotional. People tend to treat you in a different way and we like that style.

“Honduras has more players with the ability to play in England so hopefully they will come. Then there will be more Hondurans with better experience of playing with the best players in the world.

“The atmosphere from our fans gave us the confidence to work hard for the club. I’m already looking forward to next season. This season is done now so I’ll go on to the national side and then do it all again next year.”

Espinoza joined the Latics from Sporting Kansas City in January 2013 and four months later was lifting the FA
Cup after a last-gasp victory over Manchester City.

Relegation soured the memories somewhat but the left-sided player was desperate to go back to Wembley and earn an immediate return to the Premier League before Rangers put paid to his hopes.

“It’s very, very disappointing not to get the chance to create some more great memories at Wembley,” he continued.

“We’ve come so close and probably were a little unlucky not to make it. I give credit to QPR, though as they defended really well, especially at the end.

“We tried all we could to create opportunities and actually had some chances but did not finish them.

“Overall they deserved to win. I think next season with a more settled managerial situation and a team of experienced players we can definitely get automatic promotion.

“We had a very rough beginning to this season and had we done better then we wouldn’t be here right now.

“We need to start really well to make sure we don’t fall into this play-offs situation again and just go straight up to the Premier League.”

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