For both Canada and Honduras, it’s all up for grabs now.
Come Tuesday afternoon (4 pm ET, Sportsnet), one of the sides will likely be moving on to the CONCACAF Hexagonal while the other will be starting the long and arduous wait for 2018 World Cup qualifying.
For Canada, it’s win or tie and they go through and eliminate Honduras. But that’s easier said than done in San Pedro Sula.
With a win, Honduras would be through on the long road back to the World Cup for the second consecutive try. If Canada lose, they would need Cuba to do the nearly impossible and beat Panama by two more goals than Canada’s losing margin in a game played simultaneously in Havana.
With Honduras preventing Panama from clinching their spot in the final round after a 0-0 tie last Friday, both Group C matches on Tuesday will have to be played simultaneously. Since Cuba’s stadium doesn’t have proper lighting, both games will take place in the afternoon, setting Canada up for hot and humid conditions in Central America.
For Canada, it’s a bit like Groundhog Day, as this portion of the past two World Cup qualifying campaigns have featured games in October in San Pedro Sula and with mixed results.
Four years ago, Canada were officially eliminated from qualifying with a 3-1 loss. Walter Martínez opened the scoring just eight minutes in. Andre Hainault equalized early in the second half before Carlo Costly scored a long range winner just minutes before Hendry Thomas sealed the final score with a late insurance goal.
Four years earlier, Atiba Hutchinson scored Canada’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw — a result they would certainly cherish on Tuesday.
In June, Canada deserved the three points but ended up playing to a scoreless draw against Honduras in Toronto, dropping two costly points that would have qualified Canada at this point.
Canada’s last win over Honduras was a 2-1 victory in a friendly in Montreal in Sept. 2010, and the last time they beat Honduras in a World Cup qualifier was in April 1993, when they won 3-1 in Burnaby, B.C.
Honduras have been forced to play the final two games of this round without two influential players, as both central midfielder Roger Espinoza and goalkeeper Noel Valladares are out due to injury.
Donis Escober played for Valladares and picked up a clean sheet on Friday, but it’s certainly a big break for Canada that Sporting KC's Espinoza sprained his ankle prior to the latest round of qualifying.
Honduran newspapers speculate that the same starting XI that played Panama to a scoreless draw on Friday will line up across from Canada, and that’s a side that did test the Panamanian defense. Canada’s back line, meanwhile, can expect a desperate Honduran team that has to score to stay alive.
With the game time switched to earlier in the afternoon there has been a mad scramble for Honduran organizers to try to get tickets to fans. As of Sunday, there were only about 22,000 tickets sold and prices were slashed to boost sales. More than 40,000 were expected on Tuesday night.
As Canada’s bus pulled in at their hotel in San Pedro Sula, forward Lucas Cavallini was sitting in the lobby to greet his teammates. Cavallini was called up to replace Bundesliga striker Olivier Occean, who will sit out due to a red card received against Cuba on Friday.
The 19-year-old Cavallini, based with Uruguayan club Juventud, is familiar with head coach Stephen Hart, who was part of the coaching staff for Olympic qualifying in March, when Cavallini scored against the Americans.
Canada got their first look at the San Pedro Sula stadium on Monday in a late-morning training session.
Players to Watch
Honduras: Marvin Chávez
Known for his speed, the San Jose Earthquakes wide midfielder will look to take advantage of a Canadian backline that isn’t the quickest.
If Canada do get their tactics right and can nullify his pace, it will make things easier. But if Chávez can get around them early, it could be a long day for Canada.
Canada: David Edgar
With Chávez likely deployed on the left side, he’ll come into direct contact with Edgar, who certainly doesn’t want another performance like in Canada’s last road World Cup qualifier.
Just a month ago, Edgar was torn to shreds by Rolando Blackburn’s speed in a 2-0 loss to Panama. Conversely, Edgar put in a fantastic performance and scored Canada’s best goal of the round on Friday in their 3-0 win over Cuba.
While Cuba certainly don’t measure up to the skill of Panama or Honduras, Edgar can certainly take heart from that performance into Tuesday's group finale — a game that he’s called the most important of his career.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Donis Escober (Olimpia/Honduras), José Mendoza (Platense/Honduras)
DEFENDERS (9): Maynor Figueroa (Wigan Athletic/England), Víctor Bernárdez (San Jose Earthquakes), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic/Scotland), Osman Chávez (Wisla Krakow/Poland), Johnny Leverón (Motagua/Honduras), Mario Rene Berrios (Marathón/Honduras), Juan Carlos García (Olimpia/Honduras), Wilmer Crisanto (Victoria/Honduras), José Velásquez (Victoria/Honduras)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Boniek García (Houston Dynamo), Jorge Claros (Hibernian/Scotland), Marvin Chávez (San Jose Earthquakes), Mario Martínez (Seattle Sounders), Edder Delgado (Real España/Honduras), Arnold Peralta (Vida/Honduras), Luis Garrido (Olimpia/Honduras)
FORWARDS (6): Carlo Costly (Veria/Greece), Georgie Welcome (Motagua/Honduras), Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution), Roger Rojas (Olimpia/Honduras), Mitchel Brown (Marathón/Honduras), Junior Lacayo (Victoria/Honduras)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Milan Borjan (Sivasspor/Turkey), Lars Hirschfeld (Vålerenga/Norway), Kenny Stamatopoulos (AIK/Sweden)
DEFENDERS (7): Kevin McKenna (FC Köln/Germany), Dejan Jakovic (D.C. United), André Hainault (Houston Dynamo), Marcel de Jong (FC Augsburg/Germany), Ante Jazic (Chivas USA), Mike Klukowski (APOEL/Cyprus), David Edgar (Burnley FC/England)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Julian de Guzman (FC Dallas), Terry Dunfield (Toronto FC), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake), Pedro Pacheco (Santa Clara/Portugal), Patrice Bernier (Montreal Impact), Nik Ledgerwood (Hammarby IF/Sweden), Atiba Hutchinson (PSV Eindhoven/Netherlands)
FORWARDS (4): Tosaint Ricketts (Vålerenga/Norway), Simeon Jackson (Norwich City/England), Iain Hume (Doncaster Rovers/England), Iain Hume (Doncaster Rovers/England), Lucas Cavallini (Juventud/Uruguay)