The second matchday of the first round of group-stage qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ in North, Central America and the Caribbean saw the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica all win out. The CONCACAF champions USA beat Cuba in Havana, while Mexico were impolite hosts to Jamaica, winning 3-0. Costa Rica did the job against Suriname too, racing out to a 7-0 win in San Jose.
The Mexicans had precious little trouble dispatching Jamaica at their cauldron-like Azteca Stadium on Saturday. Andres Guardado opened the scoring for El Tri after only three minutes, curling a brilliant free kick over the Jamaican wall and into the back of the net.
Fernando Arce added another before Jonny Magallon hit home a stunning volley to put a seal on the rout.
"We just didn't play well enough," was the grim assessment of Jamaica's Brazilian boss Rene Simoes, the man who took them to their only FIFA World Cup in France in 1998. "We conceded an early goal and Mexico were better than us in every facet."
The game was originally supposed to be played in Kingston, but damage caused by Hurricane Gustav forced a change of venue to Mexico City.
The USA had to endure a spirited fight by Cuba and a power outage near the end of the game before being able to claim the full three points in Havana on Saturday night. It was the first trip for a USA national team to the Cuban capital since 1947, and although the contest was not a classic by any means, the 1-0 win suits the Americans right down to the ground.
"The pitch wasn't the best, and we had some problems with the heat," said goalkeeper Tim Howard after Clint Dempsey's 40th minute strike sealed the win and pushed the Americans to the top of Group 1. "."
DaMarcus Beasley wasted a number of chances to increase the scoreline, but the result makes it a perfect six points for the Americans from two away days in Guatemala City and Havana - hostile territory to the say the least.
Honduras came from a goal down to beat Canada 2-1 in Montreal, lending credence to their fans' confidence of a spot at South Africa 2010. They were unlucky to lose to Mexico in the previous round, and showed great heart to rebound from an early set-back against their Canadian hosts.
After Adrian Serioux hit home early, a pair of goals from Ramon Nunez in the second half saw the Catrachos claim an impressive away win against a Canadian side in good form.
Trinidad and Tobago looked to have done enough to get their second win of the group stages against Guatemala after Keon Daniel put the home side ahead in the 84th minute in Port of Spain. But the local fans were made to endure a stoppage-time equaliser from Carlos Santizo after their side switched off at the worst possible moment. It was a poor welcome-back party for returning Trinidadian idol Dwight Yorke.
El Salvador made easy meat of Haiti at their intimidating Estadio Cuscatlan. Rodolfo Zelaya scored a hat trick and Cesar Larios and William Torres added two more in a 5-0 win over the ten-man visitors. In the other late game, Costa Rica, also against ten men as Suriname had Rinaldo Lupson sent off, won out by a similarly bloated scoreline (7-0) at their old reliable Estadio Saprissa in San Jose. Froylan Ledesma picked up a pair of goals and the remaining five were spread throughout the team.
The USA now sit atop Group 1 with six points from their two games, two better than Trinidad on four. Guatemala are stuck in third with only one point, while Cuba hold up the section with zero. Group 2 has Mexico out in front on six points with Honduras hunting them in second with three. Jamaica and Canada both have a point from their draw on the opening matchday.
In Group 3, Costa Rica are out in front with six points, followed by El Salvador on four. Suriname and Haiti have a point apiece.