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Chile vs. Honduras

Humberto Suazo's expected return has Chile ready to make an positive impression in South Africa. Honduras' hopes have been dented by a key injury and a costly absence.

Chile will try to take advantage of struggling Honduras when they meet in Nelspruit on Wednesday.

Suazo is a big reason Chile is back in the World Cup for the first time since losing to Brazil in the quarterfinals in 1998.

The forward has 18 goals in 42 games for the national team, but netted 10 during World Cup qualifying to lead South America and help Chile finish second in the region, one point behind the Brazilians.

A left thigh injury during a training session June 1 appeared to put Suazo's World Cup debut in doubt, but he's expected to be fully recovered well ahead of schedule.

Suazo scored in Chile's 3-0 win over Israel on May 30, and his outburst in qualifying improved the team's world ranking from 64th before the 2006 World Cup to 18th heading into South Africa.

While Suazo is expected back, his teammates showed they're prepared to play without him, beating New Zealand 2-0 last Wednesday.

"He's achieved a lot and everyone knows how important he is, but this team is able to play in a different way if necessary," defender Gonzalo Jara said.

If Suazo is unable to go, the scoring onus could fall on Alexis Sanchez, a 21-year-old forward with 11 goals in 28 games. He had a goal against Israel after getting two in a 3-0 win over Zambia on May 26.

Honduras' outlook is bleak with forward David Suazo nursing a right thigh injury. The team has already lost forward Carlos Costly to a broken foot prior to the tournament, but midfielder Wilson Palacios - who plays for England's Tottenham - is expected to be back from a thigh injury.

Costly had six goals in qualifying while David Suazo added four as Honduras finished third in CONCACAF ahead of Costa Rica, which reached the last two World Cups.

Ranked 38th, Honduras has had trouble scoring recently, getting shut out in four games while going 0-3-2. That included a 3-0 defeat to Romania on June 5.

The team's chances of reaching the second round for the first time are made even more difficult by being placed in Group H with European champions Spain and 24th-ranked Switzerland, known for its rigid defensive play.

"You can't say one team is favorite ... we all deserve respect," defender Sergio Mendoza said.

Carlos Pavon could be Honduras' answer up top. The 36-year-old forward finished second in CONCACAF qualifying with seven goals, and his 57 in 100 games are a team record. However, he hasn't scored since Honduras' last win, 3-1 over the United States in January.

Pavon had a goal to lead Honduras to a 2-0 win over Chile in the most recent matchup in January 2009 in Florida.

 
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