Team Canada could win Group A in the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a victory over Honduras on Friday, but regardless of result the Canadians are in good shape to advance to the knockout round for the first time since 2009.
The top two countries from each of the three groups, along with the two best third-place teams, move on to the quarterfinals.
Canada vs. Honduras Odds
When: Friday, 10 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Gold Cup Odds: Honduras +141, Canada +202, Draw +201
The CONCACAF Gold Cup began in 1991, and Canada’s best finishes are first place in 2000 and semi-final finishes in 2002 and 2007. Canada is the only country other than the USA or Mexico to win this competition.
Canada followed up its 4-2 opening victory in this tournament over French Guiana with a 1-1 draw on Tuesday in Houston against Costa Rica, the 19th-ranked team in the FIFA world rankings and a 2014 World Cup quarter-finalist. Alphonso Davies, all of 16 years old, put the Canadians in front in the 26th minute on a one-timer with a left-footed strike. Costa Rica’s Francisco Calvo equalised on a header three minutes before halftime.
The Vancouver Whitecaps’ Davies is the story of this tournament. He has appeared in 21 matches in his career with Vancouver but hasn’t scored. He has three goals in the Gold Cup, the first player to reach three. Davies left Tuesday’s match with an injury in the 69th minute with an ankle injury but says he’s OK. He may not start Friday, however.
“Whether we decide to put him in at the start or just kind of assess a little bit and leave him out, we have some fresh legs that want to play,” Canada head coach Octavio Zambrano told the media. “We may opt to keep him out and see how the game unfolds and put him in if the game demands it.
The biggest reason Team Canada drew with Los Ticos was brilliant play in net by Milan Borjan. Returning from an eye injury suffered in the tournament opener, he made nine saves and was named Man of the Match.
Canada’s starting XI against Costa Rica featured Borjan in goal, Michael Petrasso at right back, Dejan Jakovic and Steven Vitoria at centre back, Samuel Adekugbe at left back, and Samuel Piette, Scott Arfield, Mark-Anthony Kaye, David Hoilett, Davies and Anthony Jackson-Hamel from the midfield up through to the attack.
The Canadians and Costa Ricans are tied atop Group A with four points, but Canada would win that tiebreaker currently with a better goals differential (plus-2 vs. plus-1). A draw assures that Canada advances.
Honduras is third in Group A with one point … for now. It opened the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, a game that Honduras largely dominated. It was the Ticos’ first-ever win over Honduras in five all-time meetings in this competition.
On Tuesday, the Hondurans drew with French Guiana 0-0 – only they probably didn’t draw. French Guiana, in its Gold Cup debut, elected to play 37-year-old captain Florent Malouda despite CONCACAF’s ruling that Malouda was ineligible for previously being capped with France’s national team. CONCACAF uses FIFA eligibility rules for the Gold Cup, so Malouda is not allowed to play for another country even though French Guiana is not an official FIFA member (but is a member of CONCACAF).
Malouda was born in Cayenne, French Guiana’s capital, but spent his entire international career with France, representing the senior team in 80 matches. Malouda joined and played for French Guiana in last month’s conclusion of the Caribbean Cup in Martinique, which is where French Guiana qualified for the Gold Cup for the first time. New rules apply for this event, though.
So why did French Guiana even include him on the roster, much less play him vs. Honduras (he didn’t take the field vs. Canada)? The former Chelsea star not only started but also wore the captain’s armband. Essentially, French Guiana purposefully forfeited the game. It faced a 3-0 forfeit deficit despite any actual outcome on the pitch.
As of this writing, the CONCACAF Gold Cup Disciplinary Committee has not officially ruled. It could even choose to increase the 3-0 forfeited score. Goal differential is crucial in tournaments like the Gold Cup for tie-breakers, so French Guiana did Honduras a big favour – assuming a forfeit, which would then push Honduras to three points, one behind Canada and Costa Rica.
The Catrachos went unbeaten in five games to finish first in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana to secure their spot in the Gold Cup.
Canada vs. Honduras Betting Predictions
Canada is unbeaten in five matches overall this year (3-0-2). It played at Honduras last September in World Cup qualifying and lost 2-1. Manjrekar James put Canada ahead on a header in the 35th minute, but Mario Martinez equalized for the hosts in first-half stoppage time, and Honduras took the lead in the 51st minute on a goal from Romell Quioto. Honduras dominated time of possession and outshot Canada 20-9.
Honduras is ranked 72nd in the world and Canada 100th. Despite taking 25 shots in two games, Honduras has not scored a goal in the Gold Cup. That changes Friday: 1-1 draw. Go under the total.