The North, Central America and the Caribbean Zone (CONCACAF) is gearing up for qualifying action at the weekend with all six remaining sides in the 'hexagonal' in action. Struggling Mexico, under new management, travel to El Salvador, while Trinidad and Tobago, also with a new man in the dugout, host new section leaders Costa Rica. USA, who've endured a rough week so far, will look to rebound at home against Honduras.
Nearing the midway point of the final round of qualifying, Costa Rica are the team to chase. With a comprehensive 3-1 victory over the US in San Jose in the only midweek game, the youthful and vibrant Ticos are out in front of the pack with nine points from their four games, two ahead of the second-place Americans. The next test for Rodrigo Kenton's men is on the road in Port of Spain on Saturday, against a Trinidad and Tobago outfit mired in last place with just two points. Although it might look like a straightforward enough task for the runaway leaders, T&T will be bolstered by a new head coach. Russell Latapy, one of the dual-island nation's greatest-ever players, will line up in the technical area for his first match in charge since taking the reins from Francisco 'Pacho' Maturana.
"At this level of international football, there are no easy games," Latapy, who, at 40, may still appear in the squad list as a player, told FIFA.com. "Costa Rica are a tough team, but so are we. There are no easy managerial jobs out there, so I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Few pundits expected mighty Mexico to be struggling in the 'hexagonal,' but such have been their woes that they parted company with Sven-Goran Eriksson after the team picked up just three points from as many games. Now in the hotseat is former coach Javier El Vasco Aguirre, who has shuffled the pack, even calling old favourite Cuauhtemoc Blanco out of international retirement. The ex-Atletico Madrid boss's first test is on the road at the Estadio Cuscatlan, where El Salvador, coached by Mexican tactician Carlos de los Cobos, have picked up both of their points so far.
"I need players who want to go there without having their arm twisted," the new Mexico coach, known for his reliance on discipline and commitment, told FIFA.com in an interview. "I need people who are proud to represent their country. They should be aware that the match will be on a difficult pitch against one of our regional rivals and that the three points at stake could give us a real lift."
USA, who looked a pale shadow of their former selves in the 3-1 loss in Costa Rica on Wednesday, will need to find their form in time to host the always dangerous Hondurans in Chicago on Saturday. Up against a speedy and physical side, the Americans are certainly not guaranteed a win, even at home in their first qualifier in Chicago. "We came up short in every way," said coach Bob Bradley about the loss in Costa Rica. "We'll need to assess the situation and turn it around quickly on Saturday."