The United States, Mexico and Costa Rica can all book passage to the final round of qualifying this weekend. FIFA.com takes a closer look.
The 100 per cent trio can all guarantee their places in the final round of regional qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with wins on Saturday.
USA have been in top form since the first group stage of North, Central American and Caribbean qualifying began. They have a perfect nine points from away wins over Cuba and Guatemala and a 3-0 thrashing of Trinidad and Tobago in Chicago. Another victory against Cuba in Washington DC on Saturday would put them into the final ‘hexagonal' with two games to spare.
"We'll be at home, so the onus is on us to take the game to them," US goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has not conceded a goal in three qualifiers thus far, tells FIFA.com. "We know what's at stake, and we just need to stay focused.
Also on Saturday in Group 1, Guatemala host Trinidad in a crucial face-off between the section's likely second-place finishers. Both are tangled on four points in second place and when the two met last month in Port of Spain, T&T let a late lead vanish and gifted an equaliser to the Central Americans. With Cuba virtually assured of elimination, the winner of the game in Guatemala City will be in great shape to move on.
"This Guatemala side is as good as any I've seen," said Trinidad and Tobago veteran Dennis Lawrence. "We'll just have to find a way to break them down."
Mexico hold pole
Over in Group 2, Mexico, runners-up to the USA at the last CONCACAF Gold Cup, are in the driving seat. They also have nine points from three wins, but have not had things all their own way. El Tri were made to struggle in their opener with Honduras, needing two goals from Pavel Pardo in a dramatic fightback to win 2-1. A 3-0 thrashing of Jamaica followed and another tense win over Canada. Now, though, the Mexicans embark on their complicated away legs, and a win in Kingston on Saturday would be enough to assure them of a place in the final round.
Mexico's Swedish coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has defended his side's performances so far. "Big wins just don't happen too often anymore," he said. "It's not easy to play against a team that shuts up shop. You need a little luck and an early goal, otherwise you must have a lot of patience."
In other Group B action, an impressive Honduras side can take their points tally to nine (and virtually assure a place in the next round) with a win over struggling Canada at home in San Pedro Sula. With the Jamaicans, who recently parted company with coach Rene Simoes, Dale Mitchell's Canadians have only managed a point from their three games and will need a result on Saturday to keep hope alive.
Kenton's Ticos on song
Out in front of Group C is Costa Rica, considered the third member of CONCACAF's so-called big three. Since a disastrous start to qualifying, drawing on the road against Grenada, coach Rodrigo Kenton has stepped in for the sacked Hernan Medford and put the team back on the rails.
Putting faith in a host of new players, Kenton has Costa Rica smiling again with three wins from their first three games against Haiti, Suriname and dangerous El Salvador. "One more win will see us sure of a place in the next round," Kenton told FIFA.com. The chance will come on Saturday in Paramaribo against Suriname, who they beat 7-0 in their last match.
El Salvador, in second place on six points, would put themselves one step closer to a likely place in the final round with a win in Haiti.
Saturday 11 October
Guatemala-Trinidad and Tobago
Wednesday 15 October
Trinidad and Tobago-USA
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