Honduras qualifies for U-20 World Cup, advances to the final

Honduras (pictured) celebrates after beating Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on March 1, 2017, in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo: Victor Straffon/Straffon Images)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Honduras became the first CONCACAF team to qualify for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup and will play for the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on Sunday after it rallied to beat host Costa Rica 2-1 on Wednesday evening.

The Catrachos finished as the Group E winner after securing maximum in both its playoff round games and await the winner of the other group to determine the CONCACAF champion. It’s Honduras’ second-straight Under-20 World Cup berth.

Andy Reyes had given Costa Rica the lead in the 47th minute to draw a rousing ovation from the home supporters. But that lead was short-lived as Denil Maldonado tied the game two minutes later and Foslyn Grant adding the winner in the 70th minute.

The first half was scoreless but both sides were able to create opportunities but there was little difference between the two evenly matched regional foes.

Just minutes after the resumption of play, Costa Rica broke the deadlock. Randall Arley raced onto a ball that was played over the top on the right side. Behind the Honduran back line, Arley had the chance to look up and spot Reyes. With time to spare, Arley rolled the ball on the ground and Reyes took a low shot across the goal that eluded Honduran goalkeeper Javier Delgado.

The lead was short-lived and Honduras made the most of its first corner after conceding. Jorge Alvarez took the corner kick on the left side and Maldonado timed his run perfectly to unleash a powerful header that was simply unstoppable.

Honduras found its winner once again through the corner kick but this time it came from the right side. Darixon Vuelto took the corner and Grant shrugged off a Costa Rican defender and converted the header from close range.

Costa Rica looked for an equalizer, but Honduras just managed to hold out.

For the Ticos, their World Cup hopes rest on Friday’s game against Panama. A draw or a win will be enough for them to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 2011.

Honduras has won the CU20 twice, but not since 1994.