Honduras opened the Olympic tournament on Thursday with high expectations after a semifinal run in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. However, a 1-0 defeat to Romania at Kashima Stadium in the opening Group Stage match created a difficult path to repeating that feat.
Real Salt Lake forward Douglas Martinez earned the start for Honduras on the right wing in a 4-4-2 formation and nearly set up a first-half goal from Jorge Benguche, leading the CD Olimpia forward in behind the Romania defense in the 39th minute. Benguche rounded the goalkeeper, but was at a severe angle on his shot and it was cleared for a corner.
Honduras outshot Romania 11-4 in the first half and looked poised for a breakthrough even while Romania took some control of possession. Then after Honduras conceded a corner, an own goal gave Romania the 1-0 halftime lead. The ball came in from the left side and looked like an easy grab for goalkeeper Alex Guity, but it took a deflection off the head of Honduras defender Elvin Oliva and into the far-side netting.
Making one halftime adjustment, Honduras manager Miguel Falero brought on Michael Perello to replace Guity in goal and in the 57th minute former Real Monarchs winger Luis Palma also came into the match. To open the second half, Honduras was threatening and Martinez got his head to a cross from Jorge Alvarez, but missed high in the 59th minute. That pressure continued throughout the second half as Honduras looked for an equalizer. As desperation grew, the Romania defense continued to clamp down. Martinez got his foot to another shot in the 90th minute, but missed wide and Romania held on for the 1-0 victory.
Elsewhere in Group B, New Zealand topped South Korea 1-0 in the first match from Kashima Stadium, getting a goal from Burnley forward Chris Wood to take early control of the group.
Honduras will meet New Zealand on Sunday with a 2 a.m. MT kickoff.
In other action on Thursday, Concacaf champions Mexico smashed France 4-1 to open in the top spot of Group A while host Japan outlasted South Africa 1-0 to move into the second spot in the group. In Group C, Egypt and Spain played to a scoreless draw and Australia shocked Argentina with a 1-0 victory to jump to the top of the standings. Group D opened with Ivory Coast topping Saudi Arabia 2-1 and Brazil got a first-half hat trick from Richarlison and held on for a 3-2 win over Germany.
Group B Standings
New Zealand (1-0-0, 3 points, +1 GD)
Romania (1-0-0, 3 points, +1 GD)
South Korea (0-1-0, 0 points, -1 GD)
Honduras (0-1-0, 0 points, -1 GD)
The top two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinal round.