The Guatemalan U-20 football team celebrates after defeating Mexico. Photo: Google

By MARK LORENZANA

The United States, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala will be the four representatives at the 2023 Under-20 World Cup of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) in Indonesia.

Mexico’s U-20 team will be left off that list after it suffered a shocking defeat to underdog Guatemala on Thursday, June 30, at the quarterfinals of the pre-World Cup tournament in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Mexico has not only failed to qualify for the Under-20 World Cup, but also won’t make the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, where El Tri won a bronze medal last year and the gold medal a decade ago.

Quimi Ordoñez — who also plays for USL Championship team FC Cincinnati in the United States — put Guatemala ahead in the 39th minute, and the Guatemalan U-20 team led until the 74th minute, when Esteban Lozano — who plays as a forward for Liga MX club América — tied the game. Lozano had a chance to win the game for Mexico in the 88th minute, but his penalty kick was saved by Guatemalan goalkeeper Jorge Moreno.

In the shootout, Guatemala jumped out to a 2-0 lead when Moreno successfully stopped penalty kicks by Querétaro forward Jesus Hernandez and Toluca winger Isaías Violante. Antonio Leone, who plays as a center-back for Major League Soccer (MLS) club Los Angeles FC, also missed his penalty kick for Mexico, which he shot wide of the goal.

El Tri appeared to have been given a new lease on life, however, when Guatemala twice missed penalty kicks of their own that would have clinched the win for the Central American side, but Moreno stopped Pachuca winger Bryan Gonzalez’s shot in the fifth round, which spelled doom for the Mexican club.

The victory sent Guatemala to the Under-20 World Cup for the second time in its history. In 2011, the Guatemalan U-20 squad qualified for the tournament after beating the United States, 2-1, in the quarterfinals.

On Friday, July 1, the United States’ U-20 team beat the home team Honduras in the semifinals, 3-0, and earned the Americans a historic double qualification — both for the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. This was the third straight time that the United States and Honduras met with a berth in the Olympics on the line.

In the other semifinals, the Dominican Republic made history and has punched its ticket to the  2024 Olympic Games by defeating Guatemala, 4-2, in a penalty shootout — giving the Central American side a dose of its own medicine when it also eliminated Mexico through penalties. Guatemala has not gone to the Olympics since 1968, and the Dominican Republic is going to its first FIFA World Cup championship at any level by qualifying for the 2023 U-20 World Cup.

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