Mexico got their bid to reach the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ back on track with victory at their fabled Estadio Azteca at the weekend, and they will be keen for more of the same in Honduras when the final phase of North, Central America and the Caribbean qualifying resumes on Wednesday. Meantime, USA will be back on friendly soil in Nashville against Trinidad and Tobago, after labouring to steal a point in El Salvador, and Costa Rica, fresh from defeat in Mexico City, will be keen to right the ship at their own fortress, the Estadio Saprissa, when the Salvadorans come calling.
The big game
Wednesday 1 April, 19:30 local time, San Pedro Sula
The Mexicans put an end to a dreadful run of form on Saturday, halting a four-game winless stretch with a confident and competent 2-0 victory over Costa Rica. Having won at home, Sven-Goran Eriksson's men now need to do the same away - a decidedly more complicated task in San Pedro Sula, where they were beaten 1-0 in November of last year. Honduras, though, are not the same side as in the previous round, getting their 'hexagonal' campaign off on the wrong foot, with only one point to show from their two games and star striker David Suazo out with a knee injury.
Winning away is very important and so is playing like we did against Costa Rica, with a fighting spirit.
After losing to Costa Rica, Reynaldo Rueda's side could not even take solace in their point on the road against Trinidad and Tobago at the weekend, a game they should have won. Leading 1-0 with seconds to go, a mistake by goalkeeper Noel Valladares gifted an equaliser to the islanders. Los Catrachos are in need of some new impetus as a revived Mexican outfit come calling.
The other games
Wednesday's other two games in the region pit USA, on top of the section after a win against Mexico and a draw in El Salvador, against Trinidad and Tobago, while the Salvadorans travel to take on Costa Rica.
The Americans needed a little luck and some strong leadership from Frankie Hejduk to secure a point in San Salvador on Saturday. Down 2-0 with 15 minutes to go, the Columbus Crew midfielder took the game by the scruff of the neck, setting up one and scoring the equaliser with seconds to go. They entertain Trinidad and Tobago in Nashville, Tennessee on Wednesday, and the islanders will again be without inspirational captain Dwight Yorke, still serving a four-game suspension for his sending off in San Salvador last month. Also of concern to coach 'Pacho' Maturana is the fact that the last time the Soca Warriors travelled to the USA, in a semi-final round qualifier near Chicago, they were categorically beaten 3-0.
Expected by many to be whipping boys in this final round, Carlos de los Cobos's El Salvador have been proving themselves worthy combatants among the region's big boys. Two home draws against USA and T&T have them in high spirits heading into their first away game. Unfortunately for Los Cuscatlecos it comes at Saprissa Stadium in San Jose, a venue where Los Ticos, fresh off defeat in Mexico, rarely lose.
Player to Watch
Jozy Altidore (USA)
The powerful US striker, 19, may have done enough against El Salvador to break into Bob Breadley's starting XI for Wednesday's test against Trinidad and Tobago. Coming on on the hour mark, the Spain-based forward (on loan at second-division Xerez from Villarreal) added a direct option in attack and scored the first goal in an impressive fightback.
900 - The number of minutes Costa Rica went in South Africa 2010 qualifying without losing a game, before the final whistle blew on their 2-0 loss to Mexico at the weekend. The streak began back in June of 2008 and stretched through ten games.
"Winning away is very important and so is playing like we did against Costa Rica, with a fighting spirit. The problem since I became coach is playing away. Everybody, me included, wants to watch the team play on Wednesday with the same attitude as at the weekend," Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson ahead of the trip to Honduras.
Wednesday 1 April
USA-Trinidad and Tobago
Costa Rica-El Salvador
1. USA 4 pts
2. Mexico 3 pts
3. Costa Rica 3 pts
4. El Salvador 2 pts
5. Trinidad and Tobago 2 pts
6. Honduras 1 pt