Canada has qualified for the quarter-finals of the 2017 Gold Cup after tying Honduras 0-0 on a hot night at Toyota Stadium. It’s the first-time Canada has reached the knockout round of the regional championship in four tries.
The Canadians will play in Glendale, Ariz., on July 20 against an opponent still to be determined after finishing in second place in Group A.
“Now everything’s possible,” said midfielder and captain Patrice Bernier. “Now we’re able to get results against Costa Rica and Honduras. Whoever we’ll face in the next round, we’ll be ready for them and now we’re looking to try to go all the way.
“This is a first step.”
Marcel de Jong, usually a defender, started in an advanced role on the left side and almost put Canada in front in the 23rd minute.
Junior Hoilett crossed from the right side, it was flicked on by defender Steven Vitoria and the left-footed de Jong struck his volley right off the post to the right of Honduran goalkeeper Luis Lopez.
Honduras came right back the other way and in the same minute, with forward Ovidio Lanza’s header from right in front just missing high over the Canadian goal.
Even at a late kickoff as the second game of the day at the stadium, Canada played in the kind of heat it usually faces when it goes to Central America and the Caribbean for World Cup qualifying games.
The crowd was also fiercely against Canada, with the majority in attendance sporting blue with a the occasional maple leaf scattered throughout.
So often, Canadian teams have succumbed in that kind of heat and atmosphere but Canada gave as good as it got picking up a tie against a team that’s still in the running for a 2018 World Cup berth.
“The most important thing that I have seen is that the players are believing to get the power by knowing they can play against anybody in equal terms,” said head coach Zambrano, who has two wins and two draws since taking over as head coach a few months ago.
“Getting to that point has been quite the challenge so what that does is that allows you to take a little bit more freedoms and risks as you develop.”
In the 38th minute, Alberth Elis led another Honduran charge down the right side and flashed a shot across the face of goal but out for a Canadian goal kick.
With just a minute left in the first half, Elis thought he had a sure goal when his header off a corner kick beat Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan. Fortunately for Canada, defender Michael Petrasso was in the right spot near the left post to clear the ball out of the air before it could cross the line.
Honduras needed to win to move ahead of Canada in the standings but couldn’t make anything of the little openings provided, while the Canadian squad had a few chances at the other end to get a winner.
Substitute Jonathan Osorio nearly gifted Honduras a golden opportunity in the 71st minute with a miss-kicked clearance but got back to block a shot attempt.
He came back the other way and provided Canada with its best scoring opportunity of the game when he struck a curling, long-range shot that was denied by Lopez.
Vitoria came up big when he redirected a goal-bound Honduran effort late in the second half to keep it scoreless.
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