Honduras overturns deficit, qualifies for Gold Cup

Andy Najar (pictured) celebrates after scoring one of his two goals in Honduras' 3-0 win over visiting French Guiana in a CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifying playoff on March 29, 2015, in San Pedro Sula. (Photo courtesy of Diario El Heraldo)

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Honduras sealed passage to its seventh straight CONCACAF Gold Cup by defeating visiting French Guiana 3-0 on Sunday in the second leg of their qualifying playoff at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano.

The Catrachos overcame a 3-1 deficit from Wednesday’s first leg to win the total-goals series 4-3 on aggregate.

All of the goals were scored in the first half as Andy Najar netted a quick-fire brace, before Antony Lozano struck for the series clincher.

It will be Honduras’ 12th appearance in the Confederation’s biennial championship and the second time success in a playoff was required to earn a ticket.  In 2003, it defeated Martinique and Trinidad & Tobago to start an uninterrupted qualification run.

Najar spectacularly gave the host a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute.  From Emilio Izaguirre’s left-sided throw-in, the Anderlecht midfielder turned quickly towards the middle and beat goalkeeper Apagui Janot with a curling effort with the outside of his right-foot from 23-yards out.

Two minutes later, with the French Guianese still attempting to regain their balance, Honduras would double the lead off another throw-in.  On the right side, Wilmer Crisanto found an unmarked Oscar Boniek Garcia, who delivered a cross from just inside the box that Najar nodded with ease into an open net.

With the series level and Honduras holding the advantage on the away-goals rule, Lozano made it 3-0 in the 45th minute.  Once again, Izaguirre was involved in the opportunity’s creation.  On this occasion, the Celtic standout whipped in a diagonal cross from the left, enabling Lozano to head home from the edge of the six-yard box with Janot way off his line.

Not needing to score again, Honduras took its foot off the gas pedal in the second half and shutdown the Caribbean side’s attack. 

The Gold Cup will be played July 7-26 throughout the United States and Canada.  Honduras will be in Group A with defending champion USA, Panama and Haiti.