What a week it’s been for Mexico. Days after the senior side secured qualification to the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 with an emotional 3-2 play-off win against symbiotic rivals USA, the U-23 squad booked their ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics. *El Tri *played in inspired fashion and defended their title to become CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying champions once again.
Mexico and Honduras both ensured they will represent the region at Rio 2016 after they both won through to the final. For Mexico, that meant they will have the chance to defend their London 2012 title. El Tri went on to defeat Honduras 2-0 in the CONCACAF Olympic Championship Final in Salt Lake City and lifted the trophy.
Mexico won the final thanks to an own goal in the first half, followed by a spectacular strike by Victor Guzman from around 30 yards in the second half. Guzman’s swerving effort gave Honduras goalkeeper Harold Fonseca no chance as the shot was deceptive enough to see him shift his body weight, making it impossible for him to stop the ball from crossing the line.
Players to watch
*Title-winning Mexico boast a number of dangerous players, but teams at Rio 2016 will want to pay close attention to *Hirving Lozano. The 19-year-old Pachuca midfielder - who was one of their U-20 side's chief attacking threats at the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 - pulls the strings for El Tri with precise dribbling and a contagious work rate. He has the ability to shoot from range and take defenders one-on-one, which always proves a threat going forward, and his quality was underlined when he was awarded with the CONACAF Golden Ball for the tournament.
Honduras were coming off an impressive and resilient victory over USA in the semi-finals and Alberth Elis was a crucial part of Los Catrachos’ success in the tournament. His brace against the Stars and Stripes in Honduras’ 2-0 win in the semi-finals epitomised his ability as a clinical finisher. Elis demonstrated the ability to finish with aplomb and control the ball in tight spaces in his first goal against USA. His second goal then showcased his instinctive ability to finish as he looped a shot across goal past the helpless Ethan Horvath. Elis finished as the tournament's joint top scorer along with USA’s Jerome Kiesewetter.
Kiesewetter* *was also a big reason why the Stars and Stripes finished as the tournament’s top scoring team (15 goals). The Stuttgart-based player provided four goals and two assists, proving dangerous in every match, storming down the right flank.
USA face play-off with Colombia*
*The Stars and Stripes started their CONCACAF Olympics qualifiers out as strong as possible. Thirty-five seconds was all they needed to score their first goal of the tournament, in their opener against Canada in Kansas City. Forward Jordan Morris finished off a complete team build-up play within the first minute of their opening group game against their northern neighbours in what was ultimately a 3-1 win. USA eventually fell to Honduras 2-0 in the semi-finals, but with a 2-0 win over Canada in the Match for Third Place, Andreas Herzog’s side will now face Colombia in a play-off in March for a place at Rio 2016. For the Canadians, it represented a chance lost to qualify for the Olympic Football Tournament for the first time since 1984.
*Did you know?
*Honduras has only lost four matches in CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship history. All four losses have come against Mexico.
*Mexico 2-0 Honduras
*Match for Third Place
*USA 2-0 Canada