GUADALAJARA, MEXICO (AFP) – Honduras reached the Tokyo Olympics football tournament on Sunday, denying the United States (US) a place with a 2-1 semi-final victory in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.
Mexico joined Honduras at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games after beating Canada 2-0 in the second semi-final to secure the second berth available from the North and Central America and Caribbean region.
Honduras and Mexico will contest the tournament final today, but the real business was concluded when each advanced to the Olympics, due to begin in July after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, via semi-final victories.
Honduras’ Juan Carlos Obregon scored in first-half injury time and a second came in the 47th minute when US goalkeeper David Ochoa’s attempt to clear the ball rebounded off Luis Palma and into the goal.
Jackson Yueill pulled one back for the US in the 52nd minute with a blast from outside the box.
But Honduras held on to qualify for their fifth Olympics and fourth in a row.
“We’re devastated,” US coach Jason Kreis said after a defeat that will see them miss their third straight Games since qualifying for Beijing in 2008.
It was the second consecutive time the US had been denied by Honduras, who also derailed their bid for a 2016 Rio de Janeiro berth.
The US men’s team’s last major international tournament appearance was at the 2014 World Cup. “I think it just comes down to general sharpness of players,” said Kreis, whose players didn’t have a shot on goal until Yueill’s goal. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a game where we had players mis-control the ball so much – balls rolling under people’s feet, passing out of bounds. These are things you kind of scratch your head.”
Mexico, the 2012 gold medallists, booked their 12th trip to the Olympic Games with two second-half goals against Canada. Mexico dominated possession in the first half but were frustrated by Canada’s determined defence. Uriel Antuna broke the deadlock in the 58th minute and Johan Vasquez added a second goal in the 66th to seal the victory that denied Canada a third Olympic appearance.