Costa Rica 1-1 Honduras (Honduras win 4-2 on penalties)
The fact that this game remained scoreless at half time had everything to do with Honduras lacking a finish. They approached the match with a plan and they executed to that plan with one exception – despite numerous chances they could not find a way to put the ball into the Costa Rica net.
Honduras was compact in shape and tidy in possession and with the exception of one shot by Christian Bolaños from the edge of the penalty box that was parried by Honduras keeper Noel Valladares, Costa Rica never provided a sustained attack over the first forty-five minutes.
During the first half Costa Rica looked like a side that felt that they could free-wheel their way to a place in the semi final. Bryan Ruiz and Alvaro Saborio failed to link up and offered nothing to Costa Rica in the form of an attacking threat.
Marcos Ureña and Bolaños started in wide positions which showed attacking intentions from coach Ricardo LaVolpe but they quickly became isolated as Costa Rica passes were either easily cut out or misdirected.
Where Honduras strung passes of 5 to 10 yards together successfully Costa Rica were either caught in possession and attempted sweeping passes of 30 to 40 yards. The only positive at the half way mark for Costa Rica was that the game was not already out of their reach.
The second forty-five minutes got of to a rattling start with a disallowed goal (offside) for Costa Rica followed by a goal for each team and penalty saved by Valladares.
Costa Rica set out in the second half looking to push the ball into the spaces between the Honduras centre backs and full backs. It nearly had an immediate pay off but Bolaños had not strayed offside – Ureña provided the final touch but to no avail.
Costa Rica was awarded a penalty after Ureña skipped past the very imposing Victor Bernardez only to have the Honduras centre back penalized for tugging on the attacker’s jersey. A very off-form Saborio missed the opportunity to put Costa Rica 2-1 up and in the driving seat when his shot was saved.
It Saborio’s effort gone in it would have capped a recovery by Costa Rica from a goal down. Jerry Bengtson had put Honduras ahead sliding a shot into an open net after Nunez had caught the Costa Rica defence sleeping. At that stage it was nothing more than Honduras deserved but it also served as a high water mark.
After taking the lead Costa Rica spent the rest of the second half and extra time as the dominant side. Dennis Marshall took advantage of slack defending and headed an equalizer from six yards out. But as Costa Rica pushed forward Honduras defended resolutely even though there were clear signs that fatigue was taking a toll.
Any chances fashioned by Honduras generally came through substitute Carlos Costly who drifted left rather than settling into his normal more central position in attack.
Against the run of play Honduras came close to scoring what would have surely been a winner right on the stroke of full-time. Extra-time maintained a pattern of play with Costa Rica dominating and Honduras trying to keep them to the periphery.
Penalty kicks seemed to be the best option for Honduras and that was how it turned out. Borges and Saborio both hit the crossbar while Honduras went four for four and moved into the semi-final.
Man of the Match – Oscar Garcia (Honduras); got through a prodigious amount of work at each end of the field and always posed a threat from long-range.
Footnote – CONCACAF officials are routinely criticized for some of their officiating but Roberto Moreno from Panama was a first class.
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