Posted on August 1, 2012
COVENTRY, England — Honduras made history by qualifying for the knockout round at the Olympic men’s soccer tournament for the first time on Wednesday.
The Hondurans played Japan to a scoreless draw at the City of Coventry Stadium, ensuring them of reaching the quarterfinals. They will play Brazil, now the current favorites to earn its first gold medal, in Newcastle on Saturday.
The Central Americans finished Group D with a 1-0-2 record and five points, playing Morocco to a 2-2 tie in the opener and then pulling off the upset of the tournament, a 1-0 win over Spain. Japan (2-0-1, seven), which already had qualified for the quarterfinals, won the group crown and did not allow a goal in three games.
“I’m very, very, very proud of the players,” Honduras coach Luis Suarez said. “For the last seven months, they’ve worked very hard every day, every week, every month. Most important is aptitude, desire, union, friendship. I’m deeply proud of the result.”
Defender Maynor Figueroa felt Honduras could even go further in the competition.
“Nobody thought we would get to the final, but I honestly think we can even if nobody else did at the start,” he said. “Nobody believed us but we’ve got just as much chance as anybody else.”
Honduras goalkeeper Jose Mendoza made several superb saves to keep his team in the game.
Teammate Jerry Bengtson, who plays for the New England Revolution, almost scored in the 38th minute when he found space in the penalty area, but goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda denied him a goal.
Asked what Tena told the players afterwards, Mario Martinez replied, “He was very happy but not satisfied. We have beaten the favorites Spain and he wants more and more from us and all this is positive.”
Next up is Brazil.
“It’s complicated with a team like Brazil in the next round,” Suarez said. “They are the most difficult. But we have 90 minutes, 11 to 11, with the same possibilities – win, draw or lose. The idea is to look for a win. We need to maintain order like we did in the three games before. I trust we will make more in the next round. Even with Brazil, we have confidence in the next game.”
Added Martinez: “Now we have another difficult team to face and another chance to prove that Honduras is here for good.”
Categories: Central America, Honduras, Olympic Qualifying