Honduras are on the verge of pulling off what may go down as the biggest upset in the history of the CONCACAF Nations League knockout stage when they travel to Estadio Azteca for the second leg of their quarter-final tie with Mexico on Tuesday.
In the opening leg on Friday, La H stunned the reigning Gold Cup champions with a 2-0 victory, putting them a game away from clinching a spot at the Copa America next year.
Following their shock defeat on Friday, Mexico are on the brink of missing the semi-finals of a CONCACAF tournament for the first time since the 2005 Gold Cup, having advanced beyond the last eight in 11 successive quarter-final fixtures at either that competition or the Nations League.
Before their last match, El Tri had gone unbeaten in 26 successive competitive encounters versus Central American sides, with their previous defeat occurring against Honduras in 2017 (3-2).
Since capturing a record ninth Gold Cup last summer, Jaime Lozano's men have only won one of their previous five matches in all competitions (2-0 over Ghana).
While the Mexicans have not lost a match at Estadio Azteca since squandering a 1-0 lead to the Hondurans in 2013 (2-1 loss), this team have not been nearly as convincing in front of that raucous crowd at that historic stadium, scoring a goal or fewer in three of their last five matches played there.
That 2013 defeat versus Honduras is the only match in over 27 years where they have conceded a goal at home against La H, while it previously occurred in November 1996 in a game which Mexico won 3-1.
El Tri have conceded multiple strikes in four of their previous five matches in all competitions, going winless in their last 16 encounters when conceding in the opening half.
Coming into this competition with just one victory in six competitive fixtures, the last thing many would have expected is to see the Hondurans in a solid position to make the semi-finals.
A 2-0 victory in the opening leg of this tie extended their Nations League home winning run to four successive matches dating back to the 2022-23 tournament, having outscored their opponents 12-1 over that stretch.
It was also the first time this team had won a quarter-final match at a CONCACAF tournament in over a decade (1-0 win over Costa Rica at the 2013 Gold Cup) and the first time they had scored against and defeated the Mexicans since October 2017, having been outscored 11-0 in their previous four matches versus El Tri before that.
Since Reinaldo Rueda returned, the Honduran backline has been virtually impenetrable, with his side conceding just once in his six competitive fixtures in charge while posting five clean sheets and also earning their first-ever shutout victory against Mexico.
La H have lost both of their away matches versus North American opponents at this tournament, though they are one of the few to have defeated El Tri at Estadio Azteca, claiming a 2-1 victory in 2013 in front of over 73,000 fans.
Seven of their eight victories, which have come within 90 minutes at this tournament, have happened when Honduras found themselves in front at the interval.
Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa could be a question mark for this match after being injured early in the opening half on Friday with Luis Malagon replacing him, while Lozano added one new face to his starting 11 for that match who did not begin their friendly versus Germany as Orbelin Pineda took the place of Uriel Antuna.
In their previous encounter, Raul Jimenez came on as a second-half substitute for El Tri in place of Santiago Gimenez, and he continues to search for his elusive 34th international goal, which would put him in a tie for fifth all-time with the national team alongside Carlos Hermosillo.
Anthony Lozano notched the winner on Friday, as he and Bryan Rochez found the back of the net for a second match running, while Edrick Menjivar made two stops to record his fourth successive clean sheet.
La H have not scored in a match outside of Honduras since the Gold Cup last July, when Jerry Bengtson and Jose Pinto netted in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Haiti.
Mexico possible starting lineup:
Malagon; J. Sanchez, Montes, Vasquez, Gallardo; Antuna, E. Alvarez, E. Sanchez; Pineda, Jimenez, H. Lozano
Honduras possible starting lineup:
Menjivar; Najar, Maldonado, Vega, Rosales; Flores, C. Pineda; Rivas, Acosta, Palma; A. Lozano
We say: Mexico 1-0 Honduras (Honduras advances on aggregate)
Whether they are still resting on their laurels from the Gold Cup or are just in a slump, the Mexicans have not looked convincing in months and have found it difficult to find consistency at Azteca.
The Hondurans look quite comfortable hanging back and defending teams for long stretches, while they seem to have developed some solid partnerships at the back, all of which should enable them to squeak through this tie.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
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