Mexico kept up their recent revival in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying with a 3-0 drubbing of Costa Rica on the road in San Jose, the effervescent Gio dos Santos leading the way. Wins for the USA and Honduras - over El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago respectively - sees the pair tangled for top spot on 13 points while Mexico cling to the last automatic qualifying berth in third with 12. The Ticos, first place coming into Saturday night's schedule, are now in fourth with three games to go and confidence low.
Match of the day
Costa Rica 0-3 Mexico
Goals: Giovani dos Santos 46', Guille Franco 62', Andres Guardado 70'
Mexico came into their clash with table toppers Costa Rica on a high after beating the States at their Estadio Azteca last month. Even so, their shaky start to the final round of qualifying and the Ticos fine home form up to that point, made for a nervy and physical first half. However, with seconds to go in the opening period, Gio dos Santos snapped to life, scoring a stunner from distance. He then went on to set up Guille Franco and Andres Guardado, who added goals in the second half to hand Costa Rica their first home loss of the campaign. The rout also sees the Mexicans move on up to third, in the frame for one of the three automatic berths to South Africa for the first time in the campaign. El Tri, thanks in large part to Dos Santos, have turned an important corner after dropping three of their first four games in the final round.
In other action
The United States moved to the top of the final 'hexagonal' round of qualifying after surviving a scare in Sandy, Utah, eventually coming from behind to down El Salvador 2-1. Without the services of central defenders Oguchi Onyewu (suspension) and Jay Demerit (injury), the American rearguard looked shaky in the imposing shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Christian Castillo took full advantage of a blunder by Jonathan Bornstein by heading home in the 32nd minute. But the Americans surged back - with Landon Donovan creating of both goals. His free-kick picked out Clint Dempsey, who headed home in the 41st minute. Then the LA Galaxy man crossed for USA top scorer and recent Hull City signing Jozy Altidore, who hung in the air to snap home with his head.
Honduras join the States at the top of the six-team group after a 4-1 hammering of Trinidad and Tobago, whose hopes of reaching South Africa 2010 are all but shattered. Carlos Pavon, who has six goals in six games, scored the first two in a torrid eight-minute stretch midway through the first half. Amado Guevara added another just after the hour mark and David Suazo made it 4-0 in the 83rd minute. Kerry Baptiste pulled back the faintest consolation in the 85th minute, but T&T are in last place and awaiting the official knockout blow.
All six remaining CONCACAF sides will be back in action again on Wednesday when the USA travel to Trinidad, Costa Rica look to rebound in El Salvador and Mexico host Honduras.
Player of the day - Giovani dos Santos (MEX)
With time winding down in a rough-and-tumble first half against group leaders Costa Rica in San Jose, Tottenham Hotspur's mercurial ace Dos Santos took the game by the scruff of the neck. The former U-17 world champion slammed home a scorching goal with his left foot on the stroke of half-time, before single-handedly dismantling the Ticos in the second half. Surging irresistibly from deep positions, he set up the two remaining goals in a thoroughly dominant performance that will have coach Javier Aguirre smiling.
What they said
"We played a fantastic game tonight. We were solid at the back and sharp in attack. A performance like this just works to confirm the positive spirit that has been in the team since Aguirre took over. We're thrilled with the result, but we still have three important games to go," Mexico's Efrain Juarez.
"I'm happy to score an important goal, but the main thing is to qualify for the World Cup. We still have one more tough game to go on the road and things are never easy in the CONCACAF region. El Salvador pushed us the whole way tonight, but we played well overall," USA's Jozy Altidore.
9 - Mexico have not lost to Costa Rica in their last nine meetings, including the last three games in San Jose's intimidating Saprissa Stadium. Their last loss at the ground came way back in 1992. Prior to Saturday's 3-0 defeat, Costa Rica had won all of their seven home South Africa 2010 qualifiers at the stadium, scoring 19 goals and conceding just one.