Honduras qualifies for FIFA U-20 World Cup

Michael Chirinos (pictured) celebrates after scoring in Honduras' 2-1 win over Guatemala in a CONCACAF Under-20 Championship playoff on January 24, 2015, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Photo: Mexsport)

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Honduras qualified for the next FIFA U-20 World Cup thanks to a 2-1 win over Guatemala in a 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship playoff on Saturday at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.

A trip to New Zealand in four months will mark the Catrachos’ sixth appearance in the competition and their first since 2009.

Michael Chirinos and Alberth Elis scored on either side of half-time for the eventual winner, while Diego Alvarez gave Guatemala hope with a well-taken free kick in the second half.

After Bryan Rochez saw his 17th minute penalty kick saved by Guatemala goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen, Honduras took a 1-0 lead through Michael Chirinos.

A long diagonal pass played out of the right floated over the head of Guatemalan defender Mauricio Maltes in the box.  Chirinos measured the subsequent bounce perfectly, firing past a helpless Hagen from seven-yards out with his left foot to put the Hondurans ahead in the 39th minute.

The hard-working Chirinos was in the middle of the action for the second goal as well.  The 19-year-old midfielder received on another long ball down the left, held off two defenders and, as Hagen came off his line, slipped a pass across the six-yard box.  All Elis had to do was tap in to extend the Honduran advantage to 2-0.

Guatemala halved the deficit in the 74th minute thanks to Alvarez.  The opportunity was presented after Honduras’ Jhow Benavidez fouled Cristian Jimenez on the left, 35-yards away from goal.  Alvarez then stepped up and whipped his right-footed effort just inside the near post, beyond diving goalkeeper Roberto Lopez.

The Guatemalans had one last chance to equalize, but Carlos Estrada headed Mauro Portillo’s chip just wide of the left post in the third minute of stoppage time. 

Estrada nearly gave Guatemala a lead early in the first half, only to his right-footed attempt from a severe angle crash off the woodwork. 

NOTES: Alberth Elis and Bryan Rochez each scored a team-high four goals in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship … Guatemala had conceded only two goals in its previous five games in the competition.