Nine second-leg qualifiers remain this weekend in North, Central America and the Caribbean. The winners will move on to join Honduras, Jamaica and Canada - who emerged victorious from their respective series - in the first group stage of the region's qualifying road to the 2010 FIFA World South Africa™.
Leading the potential shocks at the halfway mark are island minnows Bermuda, who pulled off their first-ever win over Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday in hostile territory. John Barry Nusum scored both goals in the 2-1 win in Macoya, Trinidad to set up a scorcher of a return leg in Bermuda, where all the island is abuzz with hopes of finishing off this most famous of upsets.
"We know that Trinidad will come out hard at us," Nusum told FIFA.com. "But we will be even better prepared for the second leg and we'll be ready to give them a fight."
T&T, who reached the FIFA World Cup finals in Germany in 2006, are not the only regional giant on the chopping block. Three-time world finalists and Central American heavyweights Costa Rica could only manage a 2-2 draw in Grenada last Saturday. Coach Hernan Medford, who said the first leg result was "not a disaster", will be fighting for his job, and Costa Rica's future, in the return on the 21st at the intimidating Saprissa Stadium in San Jose. Grenada are much improved, and won't be looking to do the former Tico star any favours, with Blackburn Rover Jason Roberts and Shalrie Joseph among the Spice Boyz' ranks.
Guyana were tipped to start strong against neighbours Suriname on the road last week. But after being turned over 1-0, the Golden Jaguars now face their return leg in Georgetown on Sunday with a hill to climb. Also, reigning Caribbean giants Haiti were held to a goalless draw in Port au Prince by upwardly mobile usptarts the Netherlands Antilles, who have a stable of Dutch-based pros among them.
Cuba could only manage a 4-3 win over islanders Antigua and Barbuda mid-week in their first leg and will be hoping for a more emphatic finish to their series in Havana on Sunday.
Mexico were overwhelming favourites to beat once-lowly Belize in Houston, Texas on Sunday, but El Tri, looking nervy and out of sorts, could only pull off a 2-0 win, with the second goal coming late from the spot by veteran striker Jared Borgetti. Panama, CONCACAF Gold Cup runners-up in 2005, only shaded El Salvador 1-0 in Panama City and face a tricky test in the always hostile confines of the Cuscatlan Stadium in the capital of San Salvador.
Among all the tense and tight first legs, there were a handful of straight-out routs that look like leading to simple conclusions.
The United States put Barbados to the sword 8-0 in Los Angeles - equalling their biggest-ever margin of victory in a competitive match - to set up what should be a fairly relaxed meeting in Bridgetown on Sunday. Brian Ching scored three goals on the day in what US coach Bob Bradley understatedly called "a good start to qualifying".
Guatemala also had their scoring boots on as they mauled tiny
island side St. Lucia to the tune of 6-0. LA Galaxy striker Carlos
El Pescadito Ruiz scored four goals in the affair to set
up what seems a predictable second leg in Los Angeles (St Lucia do
not have a suitable ground to stage the game) on Saturday.
Canada finished off St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Montreal on Friday night in the first return fixture of the weekend. Dwayne De Rosario and Ali Gerba each scored a pair of goals in a 4-1 victory to claim a 7-1 aggregate win.
CONCACAF qualifying round 2 at the halfway mark:
Grenada 2-2 Costa Rica
Antigua and Barbuda 3-4 Cuba
Suriname 1-0 Guyana
Guatemala 6-0 St. Lucia
USA 8-0 Barbados
St. Vincent 0-3 Canada
Haiti 0-0 Netherlands Antilles
Belize 0-2 Mexico
Panama 1-0 El Salvador
Trinidad and Tobago 1- 2 Bermuda
Honduras, Jamaica and Canada are all through to the group stages after aggregate wins over Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and St. Vincent respectively.