Mexico and Honduras square off for the top spot in CONCACAF"s second Olympic qualifying group. Who has what it takes to win?
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The top spot in Group B of CONCACAF"s Olympics Qualifying tournament is up for grabs, with Mexico and Honduras squaring off even, each with six points. Mexico will gladly take a draw if it comes to that as goal differential favors them, but a win would help them keep momentum going into the semifinals as they aim for a place in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio to defend their gold medal from the 2012 London games.
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The most important aspect of this match is who faces the red-hot USMNT side in the semifinals. The US secured first place in Group A on Tuesday, meaning that whoever loses this match and finishes second in the group has to battle them, while the winners get a much easier-looking match with Canada. Given that only the two teams in the final are guaranteed a spot in Brazil — the third-place side has to win a playoff against Colombia — that puts a lot of weight on this result, so expect this one to go all-out and to the wire as these two talented teams jockey for a favorable opponent in the semifinals.
Key player — Anthony Lozano (Honduras)
Lozano has been a hot hand in the tournament so far, with a goal in each of Honduras" first two matches. If he can keep up that form, it would make life much easier for Honduras to know they have a reliable danger man up top — but he"s also played a lot of minutes and may not be fresh enough on short rest to continue to have that kind of impact. If he"s at less than 100 percent, Honduras could be in trouble.
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Key matchup — Raul Lopez (Mexico) vs. Bryan Acosta (Honduras)
Games like this are won or lost in midfield, and these two are likely to be key to seeing who comes out on top of that particular battle. Acosta and Lopez have been crucial to their teams" midfields, especially Lopez — Mexico struggled to break Haiti down until he subbed into the match, and his impact was duly awarded by being allowed to take the vital penalty that won Mexico the match. Acosta has been a tank in Honduras" midfield, but has been a bit foul-happy at times in Honduras" early matches. He needs to stay disciplined, because Honduras can"t afford to give Mexico too many chances through set pieces.