Hosts Costa Rica won a record extending seventh Copa Centroamericana title in the nation’s capital of San José on Sunday when defeating defending champions Honduras.
Costa Rica reached the final in fine style, winning two and drawing one of their three matches in the group stages, going on to defeat El Salvador 1-0 in the semi-final. Honduras’ route to the final was more laboured in comparison. Although they topped their group it was due to goals scored as all three teams in their group had the same number of points due to each game ending as a draw. In the semi-finals Honduras also needed just a solitary goal to progress thanks to Brayan Beckeles’ goal in the 67th minute of the game against Belize. The final would also prove just as tight with just a solitary strike from Giancarlo González in the 37th minute deciding the game in Costa Rica’s favour, giving los Ticos their first tournament win since 2007.
The Copa Centroamericana also doubled out as a qualifying tournament for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which takes place in July this year in the United States, with the best performing five teams progressing through. As well as the two finalists, losing semi-finalists Belize and El Salvador qualified along with Panama who defeated Guatemala 3-1 in the 5th/6th place play-off match last Friday.
COSTA RICA 1-0 HONDURAS GOAL AND TROPHY PRESENTATION
The Copa Centroamericana has been decided in favour of Honduras who defeated record champions Costa Rica in the final by two goals to one. Walter and Emil Martinez scored the goals as Honduras secured their first title win since 1995 and both finalists secured qualification for the CONCACAF Gold Cup along with El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala.
The 5th/6th place play-off took place on Friday with Guatemala edging it 2-1 against Nicaragua with Gregory Ruiz and Manuel Leon getting on the score sheet for the victors. The semi-finals, played on the same day, saw Honduras leave it late to secure a 2-0 win over El Salvador thanks to Johnny Leveron and Marvin Chavez’s goals in the last thirteen minutes of the match. Tournament hosts and defending champions Panama were hopeful of a second consecutive appearance in the final but came unstuck against Costa Rica who, with the game finishing 1-1 after 120 minutes, prevailed via a penalty shoot-out with a 4-2 win.
This set up a final between Costa Rica and Honduras, who were previously successful in this competition sixteen years ago after consecutive wins in the tournament. After the final had begun it took only eight minutes for Honduras to take the lead when Walter Martinez guided the ball home. Emil Martinez doubled Honduras’ advantage in the 53rd minute but Costa Rica pulled one back through Marco Urena with seventeen minutes to go but the game would see no further goals. Honduras finally got their hands on a third title triumph whilst Costa Rica will have to wait at least another two years before attempting to increase their record number of tournament wins.
The list of qualifiers for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, to be played from June 5-25 in the United States, is now complete:
The group stage in the Copa Centroamericana has concluded with the top six countries now doing battle either for the title or for the chance to gain a place in the CONCACAF Gold Cup which takes place later this year.
Tournament hosts and defending champions Panama ended the group stage with a 100% record following three wins against opponents El Salvador, Nicaragua and Belize. This sets up a semi-final against record champions Costa Rica who finished second in Group B due to having scored one fewer goal than group leaders Honduras who, in turn, will face off against Group A runners-up El Salvador in the final four.
The four semi-finalists are now guaranteed their places in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and one of Nicaragua or Guatemala will join them. Those two countries must feature in a 5th/6th place play-off having finished third in their respective groups whilst Belize, who finished bottom of Group A due to an inferior goal difference, are eliminated from the competition.
Honduras v El Salvador
Panama v Costa Rica
The semi-final matches will be played on Friday, January 21st with the 3rd/4th play-off and final to follow two days later.