Honduras (pictured) is aiming to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time since 2009. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The Honduras under-20 national team needed a win the last time it faced Guatemala in a competitive match.
After opening Central American qualifying for the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship with a loss (4-3 v Panama) and two draws (1-1 v Costa Rica, 0-0 v El Salvador), the Catrachos found themselves in a precarious situation.
In what was their fourth of six matches in the competition, a loss to the Guatemalans was a luxury that could not be afforded.
Under those pressure-filled circumstances, Junior Lacayo scored the game’s only goal late in the first half, lifting Honduras to a 1-0 triumph. That confidence-boosting result set the stage for two more victories (5-0 v Belize, 3-1 v Nicaragua).
Honduras ultimately finished third in the table to claim one of the region’s four berths to the CONCACAF event. Guatemala ended up one point behind (10 points), level with Costa Rica, but also qualified by virtue of defeating the Ticos, 1-0, in their head-to-head meeting.
Even larger stakes will be on the line Saturday, when Honduras (3-1-1, 10 points) and Guatemala meet for one of the Confederation’s two remaining tickets to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in a playoff at the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
“It’s a team that has changed a lot,” said Honduras head coach Jorge Jimenez about Guatemala. “They changed coaches. They changed players, their system of play. It’s a team that defensively is very strong. It’s hard to score goals on them.
“We know the work the new coach (Carlos Ruiz) has done to give them order in the back. And they’re dangerous because they’ve got three good, technically able, fast players in attack.”
Guatemala (3-1-1, 10 points) won three straight games in Jamaica, before falling 1-0 to first-place Panama (5-0-0, 15 points) in the last Group A match for each on Wednesday. A win would have given the Chapines an automatic berth to New Zealand, but now it must take an alternate route.
“We have to continue to work hard and make them understand that this is a tournament-long effort,” said Guatemala head coach Carlos Ruiz, whose team has conceded only two goals in five games. “They’ve had a good tournament to this point. We knew that coming into the Panama match that we would have two games to play, not just one. Each one of them could give us our ticket to the World Cup. The next one is what we will focus on to get to the World Cup.”
The newest installment of this Central American rivalry will take place at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, 2:00 p.m. ET.