In a back and forth affair on a warm afternoon at the Estadio Nacional, El Salvador eventually outlasted a Belize team that continued to surprise in its best-ever performance to date.
The coaches made a number of changes from the line-ups regularly used during the ten-day tournament, with both Belize's LeRoy Sherrier and El Salvador's Alberto Castillo giving a handful of untested players the chance to shine on the regional stage.
With the players trying to get their feet under them, the first half was well played, but devoid of clear scoring opportunities, as the two evenly matched sides felt each other out.
The second half was more open, starting in the 48th minute, when Deon McCauley -- Belize's top goal scorer -- tested Salvadoran goalkeeper Derby Carillo. The 25-year-old launched a shot from just inside the midfield stripe that nearly caught Carillo out of his net, but it sailed just high.
Two minutes later, Nelson Bonilla scored the game's only goal, finishing off a neat series of passes with a shot from close range to give the Cuscatlecos a 1-0 lead.
The Belizeans continued to attack with energy, but couldn't find a clear way through the Salvadoran defense, as Carrillo - earning his first cap -- recorded a clean sheet for the victory.
El Salvador, which snapped a six-game winless streak in the tournament, equaled its best-ever finish at the Copa Centroamericana, clinching third place for a fifth time (1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2013).
Despite the loss, Belize easily surpassed its best Copa placement and has conceded one goal or less in five of its last six UNCAF outings.
With their semifinal appearances, both teams earned a place in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup to be played in the United States in July.