Canada handles Honduras with ease, advances to CONCACAF Nations League final four
TORONTO — Canada is headed to Las Vegas, in search of the CONCACAF Nations League trophy after a dominant 4-1 win over Honduras on Tuesday.
Cyle Larin scored twice early and Jonathan David and Jonathan Osorio added second-half goals for the 53rd-ranked Canadians, who controlled the game from the get-go. Ismael Kone had a breakout game in the Canadian midfield.
Jorge Benguchi scored a consolation goal for No. 81 Honduras.
"Prior to the game we talked about if you want to be part of CONCACAF's elite, you have to be in these final moments," said Canada coach John Herdman. "You've got to get into these big events. It's the first (time) in our history to get to a Nations League final and I think this group believes they can win it. And why not?
"The step they've taken tonight, I think they've shown a level of performance that should give us hope and a lot of belief that we can win that Nations League final."
The CONCACAF Nations League features 41 teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean split into three tiers: League A (12 teams), B (16) and C (13). The four group winners in League A advance to the final four.
The 13th-ranked U.S. and No. 15 Mexico have already booked their ticket to the final four June 15-18 in Las Vegas. They met in the final of the tournament's inaugural edition in June 2021 with the Americans winning 3-2 after extra time in Denver, thanks to a Christian Pulisic penalty in the 114th minute.
Honduras was third and Costa Rica fourth.
Canada missed out on the final four in the inaugural tournament, finishing runner-up to the U.S. in its group on goal difference.
This time around, Mexico (2-0-2) finished first in Group A, while the U.S. (3-0-1) topped Group D. No. 61 Panama (2-0-1) faced No. 32 Costa Rica (2-1-0) in a later start Tuesday to decide the winner of Group B.
Points earned by the group winners factor into the final four. The highest-ranked team faces the lowest-ranked while No. 2 takes on No. 3 in the semifinals at Allegiant Stadium.
Canada will avoid the U.S. and likely Mexico in the semifinals, depending on the Panama result.
Canada (3-1-0) came into Tuesday's contest knowing a draw would be enough to win Group C and book its ticket to Sin City Honduras (2-2-0) needed a win.
The drama did not last long, with Canada leading 2-0 after just 12 minutes. Larin could have had a hat trick in the first half had he not sent a 42nd-minute penalty wide.
Honduras had no answer for Canada's multi-pronged attack before a modest crowd of 13,626 on a mild evening at BMO Field.
Canada went ahead in the ninth minute, cutting through the Honduras defence like a hot knife through butter, on a beautiful give-and-go between Osorio and Larin with Larin slotting the ball home through a defender's legs. Alphonso Davies triggered the attack down the left flank.
Larin made it 2-0 in the 12th minute, heading home a perfect Stephen Eustaquio corner after his marker, defender Denil Maldonado, lost his footing. Larin, who has scored five goals in his first eight games for Spain's Real Valladolid, increased his Canada total to 28 goals in 60 appearances.
Another Davies attack set up the penalty late in the first half with the Bayern Munich star beating four defenders. The ball found its way to Kone, who controlled it with his thigh and then hammered a shot from just inside the penalty box that hit Maldonado's arm.
El Salvador referee Ivan Barton immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Larin's ensuing penalty glanced off the outside of the post.
It was Canada's first penalty since Davies' spot kick was saved by Belgium's Thibault Courtois at the World Cup in Qatar.
David is Canada's designated penalty-taker but gave up the ball to Larin so he could try for the hat trick.
David made it 3-0 in the 49th, in the right place at the right time after Tajon Buchanan sliced into the Honduras penalty box at speed. His cross hit a couple of defenders, evading Larin but falling at the feet of David for the Lille striker's 24th goal for Canada in 40 appearances.
Herdman went to his bench in the 61st minute, sending on Hutchinson, Sam Adekugbe, Richie Laryea and Kyle Hiebert. Davies moved up in attack.
It was cap No. 103 for the 40-year-old Hutchinson, adding to his Canadian men's record, and No. 1 for Hiebert, a late call-up from St. Louis City FC after Kamal Miller was ruled out by injury.
Benguchi put Honduras on the board in the 73rd minute, flicking a header backwards off a corner.
Osorio restored the three-goal lead in the 86th minute, taking a perfect pass from Toronto FC teammate Ayo Akinola before bursting through two defenders to beat goalkeeper Luis Lopez.
Hutchinson was granted the honour of leading the Viking Clap with a drum in front of the fans in the south stand. He acknowledged it was a "cool moment" — one that comes near the end of his distinguished career.
"A couple more games," said Hutchinson, an icon both for Canada and his Turkish club side Besiktas.
Herdman and defender/wingback Alistair Johnston were back after sitting out the 2-0 away win Saturday over No. 86 Curaçao through suspension in the wake of being sent off last June in a hot-blooded 2-1 loss in Honduras.
Johnston replaced the suspended Steven Vitoria in the back three while Buchanan, who saw action off the bench against Curaçao after dealing with a minor hamstring issue, moved into the starting 11.
The Canadians improved to 9-12-7 all-time against Honduras, including 6-2-3 on home soil.
Tuesday's game was the first for the Canadian men at BMO Field since the historic 4-0 victory over Jamaica that sealed World Cup qualification on March 27 last year.
The Canadian men are now unbeaten in 16 matches at home (15-0-1) and have won their last eight straight. Their last loss on Canadian soil was 3-0 to Mexico in March 2018 in World Cup qualifying.
Canada has not lost at BMO Field since September 2010 when it was beaten 2-0 by Peru. It has gone 15-0-6 at the lakefront stadium since then, outscoring the opposition 54-6.
Canada blanked Curaçao 4-0 before losing in Honduras to open Nations League play last June. Those matches came amid turmoil in the Canada camp, with players refusing to take part in a planned friendly against Panama over ongoing labour talks.
Curaçao (1-3-0) has been relegated to League B after finishing third in Canada's group.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press