ST. JOHN’S, Canada— In what was a largely eventful contest — save for a rather lively couple of minutes around the half-hour mark — Canada and Honduras closed out Group B action with a 1-1 draw on Thursday night.
Questions over how Marco Biello’s side would lineup arose ahead of kickoff with the inclusion of Zorhan Bassong in the starting XI.
With an abundance of natural fullbacks at his disposal, Biello ultimately deployed something of a 4-4-2 with Theo Bair and Balou Tabla upfront while Tajon Buchanan and Bassong largely operated in deeper midfield roles.
This more reserved approach matched the early tempo of the game as neither side seemed overly eager to push the pace to start despite Honduras enjoying much of the possession.
The first big chance would fall Honduras’ way in the 9th minute when some sloppiness at the back for Canada led to a clear look at the top of the box which hit the woodwork behind a clearly beaten James Pantemis.
Following a relatively dull opening to the match, two of the four Vancouver Whitecaps players on the field for Canada combined to find the opening goal as defender Derek Cornelius headed home in spectacular fashion following a great cross from Patrick Metcalfe.
Celebrations following the Caps connection wouldn’t last very long as Honduras captain Denil Maldonado responded with a headed goal of his own just two minutes later from a dead ball situation.
GOAL— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) March 26, 2021
Anything your skipper can do...
Honduras equalizes soon after, with Denil Maldonado finding the back of the net off a set piece vs. #CanM23
1-1 at the half-hour mark ⏱
Having finished second-best in most of their aerial duels against Haiti on Monday, it was far from surprising to see Canada’s first goal conceded in this competition come in this fashion.
After going into the break level at 1-1, the game lost most of the momentum it had built in the three-minute passage in which both goals took place.
Neither side demonstrated much of an eagerness to attack in the second half, particularly the Canadians who sat deeper and enjoyed less of the ball as the match ticked on. As a result, the midway scoreline of 1-1 would stand at full time.
Despite relatively even possession stats (52%-48% for Honduras), shot attempts were a lopsided 21-3 in favour of Honduras, while Cornelius’ diving header was the lone Canadian shot on target all night.
Cornelius’ first-half finish was the most exciting moment of the game but his inability to see out the final quarter of an hour could be cause for concern heading into the knockout stages. Given the shift he has put in across the three matches in quick succession, Biello will hope his skipper’s substitution was one based on fatigue rather than injury.
The next test for #CanM23?— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) March 26, 2021
A one-off meeting with Mexico with a spot at Tokyo 2020 on the line. Win, you're in ✅
Mauro Biello : "What we're going to work on is the belief that we can get this done." pic.twitter.com/SRBCu1ubG8
Their five points in three games see Canada finish second in Group B and secures a semifinal fixture with the Mexicans on the weekend. A win against El Tri would see them through to this summer’s Olympic Games for the first time since 1984.
Kickoff against Mexico goes Sunday night at 9 PM ET on OneSoccer.