Group 2 of the North, Central American and Caribbean Zone semi-final qualifying round threw up bags of excitement on Saturday, setting up an all-or-nothing final day next month in which Mexico, Jamaica and Honduras will all be vying for the two spots on offer in the 'hexagonal'. Over in Group 1, Trinidad and Tobago took a big step toward joining the USA in the next round with a home win over those same Americans, combined with Guatemala's surprise loss to Cuba. Costa Rica made it five wins from five in Group 3 and El Salvador booked their passage alongside the rampant Ticos.
Game of the day
Canada 2-2 Mexico
Goals: Ali Gerba 12, Tomasz Radzinski 50 (Canada); Carlos Salcido 34, Matias Vuoso 64 (Mexico)
With Canada already eliminated and missing Julian De Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario, El Tri might have expected a cake-walk in Edmonton. From the opening whistle, though, Canuck pride and frigid temperatures took their toll on the visitors. Ali Gerba opened the scoring with a stunning volley before a Carlos Salcido free kick brought Mexico level at the break. The second half saw the fancied visitors hanging on for dear life. Radzinski struck five minutes after the break to make it 2-1, but substitute Matias Vuoso drew the Mexicans level again in the 64th minute with a peerless header. The Canucks nearly won it late, with Paul Stalteri hitting the crossbar and Radzinski poking inches wide on a breakaway.
The other games
Elsewhere in Group 2, Jamaica kept things interesting heading into the final matchday on 19 November, beating Honduras 1-0 with a goal from Luton Shelton who now sits atop the region's scoring charts. Mexico are on top of the section with ten points and a superior goal difference, and travel to Honduras, on nine in second place, on the final day while Jamaica, resurgent with seven points, will host eliminated Canada.
Things got interesting over in Group 1 as well. The United States, already assured a place in the final round, sent a young squad to Port of Spain, and were beaten 2-1 by a veteran-inspired Trinidad and Tobago. 40-year-old Russell Latapy, just back from international retirement, scored first and old favourite Dwight Yorke finished off the win late on.
That result, combined with Guatemala's shock 2-1 loss to previously pointless Cuba in Havana, sees Trinidad well-placed to go through with the USA. The final matchday will pit T&T (eight points) at home against Cuba while Guatemala need a win in the USA.
Over in Group 3, El Salvador booked their place with a comfortable 3-0 win at home over Suriname. The goals came from Rodolfo Zelaya, Eliseo Quintanilla and Derrik Garden, and the Cuscatlecos now join Costa Rica - who beat Haiti 1-0 in San Jose - in the final round, while the Haitians and Suriname play only for pride next month.
Player of the day
Ali Gerba (CAN)
The Cameroon-born striker, who lines up for MK Dons in England's third tier, exemplified Canada's never-say-die spirit on Wednesday. After his scintillating volley soared past Oswaldo Sanchez to open the scoring, he laid on an inch-perfect pass for Radzinski to extend the lead. In the end, his gritty efforts were only enough for a 2-2 draw, but the hulking attacker can be proud of a fine display.
76 - the combined age of Trinidad and Tobago's two scorers in their 2-1 win over the USA on Wednesday. Latapy, 40 and also the team's assistant coach, opened the scoring and former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke, 36, made sure of the win with a late penalty.
What they said...
"This is a massive result for us. It's an enormous thing for all these fans here and we're focused on getting ourselves into the big six and then back to the World Cup," Dwight Yorke, match-winner for T&T.