Players from Honduras (pictured) celebrate after scoring against Costa Rica in a CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship match on October 4, 2015, in Carson, California. (Photo: Mexsport)
CARSON, California – As members of the Honduras under-23 national team walked through the tunnels of the StubHub Center towards the team bus Sunday afternoon there were smiles, hugs, plus some friendly pushing and shoving amongst teammates. Others walked with a hop in their step.
The atmosphere, shall we say, was tranquil.
And they had a right to be at ease. The Catrachos had just beaten Costa Rica 2-0 in the second Group B match for both. Antony Lozano and Alberth Elis scored in a win that gave Honduras maximum points from two games and, more importantly, a spot in the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship (CMOQ) semifinals.
“Wins always give you a peace of mind,” said Honduras coach Carlos Tabora. “It helps you be more relaxed.”
Beating a bitter rival can also help ease the pressures of trying to qualify to the 2016 Olympic Games.
“When you play in a clasico, Honduras-Costa Rica, there are a lot of elements that push players beyond their skills and abilities,” Tabora continued. “You get to see the work they put in and their physical aptitude. You can see that the player will fight for every ball and look to fight for it all the time.”
Honduras didn’t let down against Costa Rica, battling for every inch of territory. That level of exertion, according to Tabora, took a toll on the squad.
“We have to evaluate the team,” commented the 50-year-old. “We have to check injuries and see what shape the players are in. The recuperation process will be key.”
There’s not much time, though, for healing. A match against Mexico on Wednesday in Commerce City, Colorado, for the group title awaits. The winner plays Canada in the semifinals, while the loser must confront the United States.
“We will analyze Mexico’s last game and we will determine from there what we will do and who we will play after we analyze it,” Tabora finished. “Mexico is a team with a long history and it always has important matches against Central American teams.”
More than three years ago, they met in CMOQ final with Mexico emerging a 2-1 winner after extra time.
Will history be repeated or can Honduras turn the table?
That’s why they play the game and we enjoy every second of watching it unfold.