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COPA AMÉRICA

How many times has Honduras played the Copa América? What was their best result?

Reinaldo Rueda’s team will have a second shot at qualifying for next year’s tournament via the Play-In round. Costa Rica stand in their way. Let’s look at their record in the competition.

Update:
Reinaldo Rueda’s team will have a second shot at qualifying for next year’s tournament via the Play-In round.  Costa Rica stand in their way. Let’s look at their record in the competition.
ORLANDO SIERRAAFP

Honduras are just 90 minutes away from being able to hear their anthem played again at the Copa América. The Bicolor missed a chance to securing their passage to the tournament directly via the CONCACAF Nations League, losing the quarter final to Mexico - but only just. Reinaldo Rueda’s team won the first leg 2-0, with goals from Anthony Lozano and Bryan Róchez but lost the second leg at the Azteca by the same score. The tie was decided from the spot. Despite the result, Honduras have another opportunity to book a place at Copa América 2024 via the Play-In round in March.

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Toyota Stadium in Dallas will be the setting for the CONCACAF Play-In clash against Costa Rica on Saturday 23 March. Canada will face Trinidad and Tobago in the other Play-In match - instant knockout ties in which the winners will book the last two tickets for next summer’s Copa América in the United States. Honduras will be eager to be a part of a tournament that brings back good memories for them.

Honduras’ first participation in the Copa América

First of all, we have to make it clear that Honduras belong to the CONCACAF region and therefore, have not been eligible for the CONMEBOL-organized Copa América - unless they are invited to participate as guests, something which started happening on an intermittent basis in 1993.

The first time Honduras were invited to take part in the tournament was in 2001 which was held in Colombia. And the Bicolor’s participation was racked with suspense and fear in equal parts. At the time, the situation in Colombia was fraught due to drug trafficking and political division, even considering, and taking place, the suspension of the tournament after the resignation of the United States and Canada as guest countries and Argentina as a CONMEBOL country due to the death threats received by the FARC and the ELN. The tournament would come to be threatened by radical extremist groups, with the FARC even kidnapping the coordinator of the event and vice president of the Colombian Football Federation, Hernán Mejía Campuzano.

Once the first obstacle was overcome, with the organization releasing Mejía and allowing the people to enjoy the Copa América, the tournament could begin with a Honduras that showed its face for the better.

Led by Ramón Maradiaga, La H’s campaign began in Group C alongside Costa Rica, Uruguay and Bolivia. They didn’t get off to the best of starts, a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica but won the remaining matches to finish runners-up in the group and set up a mouth-watering quarter final showdown with Luiz Felipe Scolari’s feared Brazil who, one year later would emerge as world champion at the World Cup in Korea/Japan.

That quarter final is considered the best in the history of Honduras’ national team. Maradiaga’s team took the lead on 57 minutes after a stroke of good fortune. Defender Juliano Belletti inadvertently bundled the ball over the line trying to clear a Saúl Martínez header which had bounced back off the post.

Honduras were inspired to go in search of another and had the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later - Danilo Turcios turned in a cross at the near post but the flag was up and the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play. A second goal finally arrived in stoppage-time, from the same channel - Saúl Martínez, completely free to slot past the keeper from close range.

Honduras had made history by making it to the semi-finals in its first participation in the tournament - and by beating the mighty Brazil for the first time. However, the fairytale would come to an end in the next round. Maradiaga’s men fell 2-0 to Colombia in the semi-finals but went out fighting.

The party back home continued anyway, as the team won the match for third place - beating a side Uruguay side featuring names such as Walter Pandiani, Diego Alonso and Gustavo Poyet in a penalty shootout.

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