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Olympic men's qualifying

Honduras stuns Mexico 5-4 in penalty kicks after scoreless tie.

By Robert Wagman

HERSHEY, Pa. (Friday, April 27, 2000) -- In a surprise, but not a shock, a talented Honduras squad is going to the Summer Olympics in Sydney after defeating a more talented Mexico 5-4 on penalty kicks. The CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament semifinal match before 12,229 at Hersheypark Stadium, after 120 minutes, had been deadlocked 0-0.

Honduras will play the United States, a 4-0 winner over Guatemala in the nitecap, for the anticlimactic championship Sunday at 3:30 p.m. (ET). Preceding it will be the third-place match between Mexico and Honduras at 1.

Mexico had the run of play through most of the match. It out shot Honduras 22-7, necessitating goalkeeper Noel Valladares to make 11 saves, several spectacular. But the Mexicans simply could not finish, and that was the story of the night.

Actually the match was rather uninspired until 105 minutes in when the second 15-minute golden-goal overtime started. Suddenly a soccer match broke out.

Mexico's Daniel Osorno hammered a shot that seemed destined for the corner but at the last second curved inches wide. Honduras came right back and Ivan Guerrero sent a shot inches high. From that point until the end it was all Mexico, but three shots missed by the narrowest of margins or were well-saved by Valladares.

The match went to penalty kicks, and in a very real sense Honduras prayed itself to Sydney. As the kicks started, all 10 Honduran players dropped to the knees and held hands, obviously imploring a higher spirit to take over. He or she did almost immediately, when Mexico's first shooter, Juan Rodriguez steered his shot into the left post.

That's all it took as the next nine shooters all converted. When defender Hector Gutierrez converted the fifth and last pk for Honduras their prayers were answered and they were on their way to Australia.

"I thank my players and I thank God for this victory," Honduras coach Ramon Maradiaga said "This is a great moment for my country."

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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