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Costa Rica falls to Honduras in Central American Cup final

Honduras held on to beat Costa Rica, 2-1, in the final of the Central American Cup on Sunday evening in Panama City, Panama. La Sele, as the Costa Rican national team is known, dug an early hole it never found its way out of, despite several opportunities to do so throughout the match.

In the eighth minute, a poor clearance by the Costa Rican defense was intercepted by Mario Martínez of Honduras. Martínez blasted a shot through a crowd of Tico defenders that caromed of the far post. The rebound found its way back to the foot of Martínez, who deftly chipped in a cross to teammate Walter Martínez, who was standing alone in front of the Costa Rican net. Walter Martínez pounded the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

Costa Rica outplayed Honduras throughout the remainder of the first half, though were unable to equalize, despite several close-range opportunities.

Early in the second half, another Honduran Martínez, this time Emil, doubled the Catrachos lead. After a foul by Costa Rican defender Dario Delgado, Emil Martínez lifted the ensuing 40-yard free-kick over the Costa Rican wall and into the top corner of the net for a 2-0.

Ten minutes later, after a second hard tackle, Delgado was ejected from the match, leaving La Sele short-handed.

Despite lesser numbers, Costa Rica was able to trim the lead in half in the 72nd minute on a goal by forward Marco Ureña.

During the last 18 minutes of play, Costa Rica generated several more opportunities though were unable to knot the score.

The Central American Cup essentially serves as a qualifying tournament for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will be played this summer in the U.S. The top five teams from the Central American Cup – Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala – all qualified to compete in the Gold Cup, which includes teams from the North American, Central American and Caribbean region. In 2009, Costa Rica lost in the semifinals of the Gold Cup to eventual champion Mexico. The game was decided by penalty kicks.

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