Canada 1 Honduras 1
TORONTO — Canada had to work hard for a 1-1 tie with Honduras on Thursday in the opening game of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
The game — fast-paced and often prickly with little room to breathe — was the first of 14 for Canada in the final qualifying round in the region. And it was an instant reality check, with two valuable home points dropped.
The teams each scored from the penalty spot with Honduras going ahead 1-0 in the 40th minute from Alexander Lopez with Cyle Larin pulling the Canadian men even in the 66th.
Canada, currently ranked 59th in the word, came into the game on a wave of optimism. But No. 63 Honduras, looking calm and collected some 3,400 kilometres away from home, proved to be a stubborn opponent.
Canada had more of the ball but could not unlock the Honduran defence until Larin converted his penalty for his 19th Canadian goal.
Veteran defender Maynor Figueroa took down substitute Junior Hoilett after Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan triggered a rapid-fire attack following a save at the other end. Richie Laryea did most of the work with the ball before the Honduran defence was compromised.
Lopez opened the scoring after Canadian wingback Tajon Buchanan took down Andy Najar in the box. A nice give-and-go between Kervin Arriaga and Najar allowed for the Honduran penetration with Buchanan’s leg catching Najar as the D.C. United wingback headed towards goal.
Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero Ramirez pointed to the spot and Lopez slotted the ball into the corner.
Lopez appeared to injure himself on the penalty, grimacing and holding the back of his thigh as his teammates celebrated. He was taken off the field on a stretcher, giving way to CF Montreal forward Romell Quioto.
Canada pressed in the second half with Honduras doing its best to kill time and slow down play. The visitors still had some teeth, however. Borjan got a fingertip to a Brayan Moya header in the 74th minute, pushing the ball off the post to safety.
Jonathan David had an opening in the 80th minute after Steven Vitoria headed the ball to him on a free kick but the Canadian forward’s shot was blocked. Laryea then shot high from a tight angle in the 89th minute.
The Canadians now head south to take on the U.S. in Nashville on Sunday. Then it’s back to Toronto to host El Salvador next Wednesday.
Next month, the Canadians visit Mexico and Jamaica before returning to BMO Field to entertain Panama on Oct. 13. Canada will play eight more matches after that, wrapping up play in March,
Canada Soccer has not announced the remaining four domestic venues after the October matches.
The top three in the final CONCACAF round-robin qualify for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-place finisher taking part in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them. Honduras made that playoff last time around, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Australia.
The Canadian men’s lone trip to the World Cup was in 1986. This is their first trip to the final round of qualifying in the region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, since the lead-up to France ‘98.
Thursday’s game was the first for the Canadian men on home soil since Oct. 15, 2019, when they scored a landmark 2-0 win over the U.S. in CONCACAF Nations League play at BMO Field. The Canadians played their next 15 matches on the road due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, going 11-4-0.