The penultimate day of qualifying in North, Central America and the Caribbean Zone will play out this Saturday, with USA, Mexico and Honduras all able to book places at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. El Salvador will be hoping to avoid becoming the second team - after Trinidad and Tobago - to be eliminated, while Costa Rica aim to get their campaign back on track under new coach Rene Simoes.
12 Costa Rica
8 El Salvador
5 Trinidad (out)
The big game
Section leaders USA can book automatic passage to South Africa with an away win in San Pedro Sula. It will be no easy ask for Bob Bradley's men, however, considering Reinaldo Rueda's technically gifted, attack-concsious Catrachos have won all eight of their 2010 home qualifiers to date. The Americans, who struggled mightily to beat Trinidad and Tobago last time out, will have to make do without Fulham ace Clint Dempsey, who is expected to miss out with a shoulder injury. Coach Bradley will have at his disposal Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, goalkeeper Tim Howard and young midfield general Michael Bradley. The third-placed Hondurans will be relying on the speedy David Suazo, creator Amado Guevara and veteran goal machine Carlos Pavon for production, aiming to keep up the hot form that has seen them pick up nine points from their last four outings.
Second-placed Mexico host El Salvador knowing a win would assure them one of the three automatic berths from the region to South Africa 2010. Happily for Javier Aguirre, who has revamped the side since taking over from Sven-Goran Eriksson, captain and centre-back Rafa Marquez is expected to return from injury. The coach will, however, have to soldier on without the previously in-form Gio dos Santos, out with an ankle knock. El Salvador, in fifth place and technically still alive, need a highly unlikely win to stay in the hunt. Mexico-born Salvadoran coach Carlos de los Cobos is cautiously optimistic after his side's dramatic defeat of Costa Rica last time out, but all of Los Cuscatlecos' points have come at home and Mexico have only ever once lost a qualifier at their fabled Azteca.
The third game of the matchday pits free-falling Costa Rica, currently in fourth and facing a likely play-off with South America's fifth-placed finishers, against Trinidad and Tobago in San Jose. After leading the section for large portions of the final round, Los Ticos have hit on hard times. Rodrigo Kenton was sacked from the hot-seat following three straight defeats and replaced by former Jamaica coach Rene Simoes. Russell Latapy's T&T are out of contention after their last loss to USA and are playing only for pride, which, as the Costa Ricans should be aware, can make a firm motivator.
Players to watch
David Suazo, Rafa Marquez and Jozy Altidore
Since his return from knee injury last month, Inter Milan's David Suazo has been in fine fettle for Honduras, destabilising opposition defences with his lightning pace. Mexico will be buoyed by the return of Barcelona's Marquez, although it will leave coach Aguirre with a selection problem regarding Ricardo Osorio and Jonny Magallon, who have both been excellent in the captain's absence. For the US, Altidore - the team's top marksman in qualifying - has been thriving and will be bolstered by a return to first-team football with Hull City in England.
4 - The USA-Honduras game will be the fourth meeting between the two this year. The Americans have won the previous three, 2-1 in their June qualifier in Chicago and twice more on home soil in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
What they said
"Honduras are tough at home. It's a huge match for us and a huge match for them. A point wouldn't be the end of the world but we'll be pushing to the get the result. We want to book our place at the World Cup as early as possible," USA midfielder Ricardo Clark.
"We needed to win, we had talked about 18 points, which historically would have been enough. We have 15, so we are not there yet. We need three more points. How? Any way possible," Mexico coach Javier Aguirre.
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