June 29 – Lightening does strike twice. For the second time in two matches a goal deep into extra time ruined Qatar’s chances of crucial group points.
Haiti scored against them seven minutes into added time to take all the points in Houston in their opening match. At the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, it was Honduras’ turn to ruin their party with a goal in the sixth minute of added time to level the score at 1-1.
It was a cruel end for Qatar as tempers and frustration boiled over after the final whistle, but for all the possession Honduras had in the Qatar half, it wasn’t an unfair result.
Qatar now have to face Mexico in their final game knowing only a win will give them a chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds for a second Gold Cup running.
In 2021 Qatar won friends and admirers at the Gold Cup as the played their way to the semi-finals. In 2023, after a disappointing performance at their own World Cup they are rebuilding under Carlos Queiroz, with the foundation stones being a solid defence.
Queiroz made three, changes to the team that lost 2-1 to Haiti, including dropping striker Mohammed Muntari for Tameem Alabdulla.
Honduras coach Diego Vazquez made five changes from the team that was picked apart in their opening 4-0 loss to Mexico.
In his pre-match press conference Queiroz had complained about the physicality of Haiti and their ‘disruption’ of the flow of the game. He talked about Qatari wanting to show that they play good football “the right way” and he praised the Hondurans for their attacking mindset.
Honduras opened the brighter, pushing the Qatar defence back but unable to find the final ball that would unlock a compact back four and defensive midfield, well marshalled by Qatari captain Ahmed Abdoulla.
Where the Qataris looked tight and a solid unit, Honduras looked loose and stretched. It was the Qataris who drew first blood.
After soaking up seven minutes of Honduran pressure the Qataris counter attacked with Mostafa Mashal on the left squaring the ball across the box to an incoming Tameem Alabdulla who fired his header past Alexandre Pierre in the Honduras goal. Fast, decisive, and clinical.
The Qataris were working themselves into the match with some neat passing and the Honduras back four looked increasingly stretched with the full backs playing high, but as the match progressed the Qataris sat deeper and deeper.
Honduras’ overloaded midfield and attack but couldn’t find that decisiveness to open up Qatar in the danger areas, the best chance falling to Jerry Bengtson close to the hour mark and four metres from goal headed down only to see the ball bounce over the bar.
Qatar’s defence looked to have held out until that sixth minute of added time. A ball into the box was knocked on by Rubillo Castillo to Honduras’ talisman Alberth Elis who poked the ball into the goal.
The match stats showed Honduras had 14 shots on goal compared to Qatar’s four. Honduras had 64% of possession.
For Querioz there is more thinking to do and more grit required for his young team.
For Honduras it a winner takes all match-up with Haiti.
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