website statistics
Jump to content

  • Four countries' Olympic dream over as North American Men's Football qualifier enters knockout phase


    The North American Men's Football Qualifier for Paris 2024, the 2022 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Honduras has seen the conclusion of the group stage. With the two finalists in this tournament reaching the Olympics, and this being the only way in for North American countries, the twenty countries entering had their Olympic dream riding on this tournament. The sixteen teams who qualified automatically based on ranking entered the group stage, while the four who played qualifying got a bye to the Round of 16. The top three teams in each group qualified for the next round.


    In Group E, held in Tegucigalpa's Estadio Nacional, home of three top-flight Honduran football clubs, the US, Cuba, Canada, and Saint Kitts and Nevis were in the group. The US were heavy favourites in their first match against Saint Kitts and Nevis and got a good start when Rocco Browne bundled down Alejandro Alvarado Jr. in the box, with Cade Cowell converting the penalty. A handball by Dejahne Morris in the penalty area was missed by the referee but spotted by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), and another penalty was given to the US, which was scored by Caden Clark emphatically. Up to this point, SKN had battled bravely and only conceded penalties, but before half-time, the floodgates opened. Firstly, a botched clearance gave Tyler Wolff an open goal, before Rokas Pukstas headed home a corner in injury time. Then, Mauricio Cuevas scored a lovely "Arjen Robben"-style goal cutting in to the box, and before the whistle went there was time for another penalty: Clark being inexplicably fouled by a lazy and frustrated lunge from Chad Liburd. Nikolas Tsakiris scored the penalty before the half-time whistle brought temporary respite to the Caribbean side. But things were no better in the second half: firstly Jermaine Chiuta headed a corner into his own goal, before Paxten Aaronson ended a counter-attack with a smart finish. The same thing happened a few minutes later, and substitute Aaronson had a brace despite only having been on for less than ten minutes. Tskairis put the gloss on the scoreline after he tapped in a low cross, and if you lost count, most in the stadium did too: it finished USA 10-0 Saint Kitts and Nevis.


    In the other game on that day, Cuba played against Canada. The sole goal came when Canada were caught sleeping with the ball in defence, and a poor backpass was pounced upon by Kevin Martín. Cuba had to play the last 20 minutes with ten men, as keeper Ismel Morgado came out and brought down Lowell Wright, earning himself a second yellow card after a similar incident in the first half, but the Cubans held on to win 1-0. In the second set of games, Saint Kitts and Nevis would have to recover as they played Cuba. But Cuba were in no mood to do anything other than win, as Martín headed home an early opener from a cross. In the second half, another header from Eduardo Hernández doubled the lead, before Mario Penalver got a header of his own from a cross. Ajani Mills was unable to clear a cross properly and put it into his own net, before a brilliant cross was headed home at the back post for Romario Torrez. There was still time for one more goal, and it was a cracker from outside the box from Rey Rodríguez to make it Saint Kitts and Nevis 0-6 Cuba.


    In the other game on the day, Canada faced the USA. Lowell Wright gave Canada a lead as he poked home a shot in a crowded box. The US fought back in the second half though, with Jack Mc Glynn firing a shot into the top corner from outside the box. But Canada regained the lead when Michael Halliday headed a cross into his own net. The US would still have some fight in them however, with Cowell cutting inside to earn a 2-2 draw. On the final day Saint Kitts and Nevis needed a win against Canada while the Canadians just needed a draw to progress. After a dull first half, Matthew Catavolo rebounded a saved shot in to give Canada a lead they wouldn't relinquish, before doubling his own tally for the day with a brilliant long range effort. A corner was not cleared properly and Wright smashed it into the bottom corner for three, before a brilliant backheel from Mael Henry confirmed that Canada would go through. Saint Kitts and Nevis looked like fish out of water in this competition, losing the three games by an aggregate score of 20-0. In the final game, the US faced Cuba, knowing both teams were through. Cuba just needed a draw to finish top, but the US were motivated to attack, and within 80 seconds they had taken the lead, with Quinn Sullivan smashing in a cross. It was the Sullivan show, with the Philadelphia Union midfielder smashing in the second into the top corner before completing a first-half hat-trick on the break. It finished 3-0, and the US as group winners will face qualifiers Nicaragua in the next round, while second-placed Cuba would face the third-placed team in Group G, and third-placed Canada would face the runners-up from that group. Saint Kitts and Nevis were out.


    In Group F, hosted at Estádio Morazán in San Pedro Sula, the home of twelve-time Honduran champions Real España, Mexico, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname were drawn together. A great game kicked off the group as Haiti faced Trinidad and Tobago, and the Trinidadians drew first blood as Nathaniel James fired into the roof of the net. Watz Leazard's deflected shot equalised for Haiti, but a wonderful freekick from Kaihim Thomas restored the lead. At half-time they would go in level however due to a goalkeeping blunder, as Jahiem Wickham pushed down Shad San Millan in the box and Steevenson Jeudy stepped up for the penalty. In the second half, Jeudy headed home a corner to give Haiti the lead for the first time, before they were pegged back after Real Gill produced a lovely run and finish, before James fired in his second of the day to complete a turnaround. But Haiti weren't done just yet, and a last-minute Bryan Destin goal from a cutback broke Trinidadian hearts and secured a 4-4 draw.


    A different type of eight-goal thriller happened as Mexico met Suriname. Esteban Lozano tapped home a rebounded shot early on to give El Tri a lead they would only ever build upon. Salvador Mariscal nutmegged the goalie for 2-0, before a lovely one-two a couple of minutes later set up his second and Mexico's third. Fidel Ambriz headed home a free-kick before Bryan González scored on an injury-time break to make it 5-0 at half time. Despite more dogged resistance from Suriname in the second half, eventually Mariscal headed home for his hat-trick. Antonio Leone smashed home after a goalmouth scramble following a corner in additional time, before Suriname's problems worsened when Ammiel Reginoud kicked Christian Torres in the face going for a high ball and got sent off after a VAR review. Finally, Jesús Hernández scored a free-kick to make it 8-0 in the thirteen minute of additional time. Haiti were the next opponents for Suriname, and Suriname improved hugely. In the first half they not only kept them out but looked on top. But they reverted to type in the second period, when they went in behind as Jeudy headed in his third goal of the tournament. Suriname's chances of getting back into the game were scuppered when Gabriel De Mees denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity with a handball and was sent off, before Jeudy tucked in a low cross to double his and Haiti's tally. There was time for one more goal, as Adelson Belizaire headed home a free-kick for a 3-0 win.


    In the other game, Trinidad and Tobago faced Mexico, who were just as ruthless this time around. Leone put in the first goal as Trinidad were unable to deal with a free-kick into the box, before González scored the second from a low cross in injury time. Jaheim Joseph brought down Lozano in the second half early on and Lozano stepped up to score number three. Jonathan Pérez converted a cross in off the post for number four, before a low shot from Lozano rounded off the night. Trinidad and Tobago had to dust themselves off against a Suriname side needing a result, and did just that. Due to heavy rainfall, both the final games in the group were moved to the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano, home of the Honduras national team. After a drab first half, a deflected effort from James found its way in to give Trinidad and Tobago the lead, before Molif Khan volleyed home a free-kick and James got his second late on. In the other game, Mexico just needed a point against Haiti to come top and got just that in a dull 0-0 draw. This meant group winners Mexico would face qualifiers Puerto Rico in the next round, Haiti who came second on goal difference would face the third-placed team in Group H, Trinidad and Tobago would face the runners-up from that group and Suriname were knocked out.


    In Group G, with games also held in Estadio Nacional, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Aruba met. A brilliant long-range effort from Alexander Romero gave El Salvador the lead in the first game against Guatemala. An own goal from Arian Recinos doubled the lead, before a fantastic run from Arquimides Ordoñez set up a goal to give Guatemala hope. It was a folorn hope however, as Mayer Gil soon restored the two goal cushion, and a nice shot from Harold Osorio from outside the box was added to by Daniel Cruz from a corner to give the Salvadorians a 5-1 win. In the other game, Panama faced Aruba and an early cross tapped in by Javier Betegón set the tone as Panama took the lead. Betegón doubled this after latching onto a through ball and poking it home for two. Kevin Garrido then tapped home a low cross for three and things did not change in the second half, with a Leonel Tejada header and a shot smashed in from the goalline by Carlos Rivera giving Panama a 5-0 win. Aruba would have to dust themselves down for the next game, and it seemed like they did just that early on as Terick Monsanto put them in front. But that was as good as it got for them as a foul from Anthony Maduro on Gil gave El Salvador an injury-time penalty that was converted by Jonathan Esquivel. In the second half El Salvador completed a brutal turnaround, with a header from Eduardo Rivas, a lovely through ball giving an easy finish from Javier Mariona, and Mariona then converting a cross for a 4-1 victory. Guatemala responded to opening-day defeat in much better fashion. Luck gave Allan Juárez an opener as the Panama keeper mishandled his shot, but a chip off the bar from Tejada restored parity. Guatemala would pull away though, with an injury-time nutmeg of the keeper from Ordoñez and a free-kick from Carlos Santos giving them a 3-1 win. On the final day, Aruba needed a result against Guatemala, and looked like they might be getting it when an Evander Nedd header put them in front. However, poor defensive positioning allowed Ordoñez to score an equaliser, while Juárez scored a winner in the second half. El Salvador just needed a point to finish first and they accomplished this with a 0-0 draw with Panama that raised few eyebrows. El Salvador will face qualifiers the Dominican Republic in the next round, while Panama in second face Cuba, and Guatemala will take on Canada.


    Group H was in the Estadio Morazán, and Honduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Antigua and Barbuda met. A Dorian Rodríguez header gave Costa Rica the lead against Jamaica, but very late on Brandon Calderón pulled down Jahmari Clarke in the box and the same player stepped up for the penalty to give Jamaica a 1-1 draw. Hosts Honduras started life with a game against Antigua and Barbuda. Aaron Zuñiga headed home a corner to give them a lead, and despite a missed penalty in heavy rain they had no more problems as Jefryn Macías took advantage of a goalkeeping mishap partially caused by the weather and then Dajun Barthley brought down Macías to cause a VAR-awarded penalty, that was converted by Marco Aceituno. The Antiguans would have to dust themselves down for the next game against Costa Rica and stayed level at half-time, before Calderón headed home a goal that was awarded after a lengthy VAR review. Costa Rica would have no problems and a header from Enyel Escoe as well as a low Rodríguez strike late-on added gloss to the scoreline. The next game for the hosts was against Jamaica, and an early Aceituno header gave them the lead, before the same player managed to squeeze in a second. Late on in the half, Isaac Castillo was through on goal before Lamonth Rochester brought him down earning a red card. But Castillo wouldn't have to wait long for his goal, completing a break early in the second half, before Macías fired home the goal to put them four to the good. Macías got his second with a low shot and Honduras won 5-0. Like the games in Group F, the final set of matches were relocated due to heavy rainfall to Estádio Yankel Rosenthal, home of nine-time champions Marathón. Antigua and Barbuda needed a win while Jamaica just needed a point in the final game. A nice bit of pace from Zion Scarlett gave him the chance to put Jamaica in front, which he took just before half-time, before Barthley brought down Tyler Roberts in the box, earning Barthley a red card and Jamaica a penalty, which Clarke converted to give them a 2-0 win. Finally, Honduras beat Costa Rica 1-0 as Shawn Roberts handled it in the box and Jeyson Contreras scored the penalty. Honduras will take on qualifiers Curaçao, Costa Rica will face Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica take on Haiti.


    The eight games will be played in the next couple of days, with games involving teams from Groups E and G in Tegucigalpa, and those with teams from Groups F and H in San Pedro Sula: Costa Rica vs Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras vs Curaçao in the Morazán, and Haiti vs Jamaica and Mexico vs Puerto Rico in the Olímpico. For Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda the tournament is over, but all the teams here know that three wins will take them to the Olympics.


    The group stage did seem a bit pointless though, with all four bottom seeds losing every game, and some pretty dramatic scorelines including a victory of 5-0 or greater in every group. Those who got a bye to the Round of 16 are even lower ranked than those bottom seeds, and twenty sides may seem too many given the drastic differences in quality between the sides.


    Patrick Green

    Writer, Totallympics News


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Create New...