The penultimate day of the first group phase of Brazil 2014 qualifying in North, Central America and the Caribbean was a festival of joy and pain. Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti, two of the Caribbean scene’s leading lights, both suffered the ignominy of early elimination while minnows Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Canada and El Salvador popped the champagne corks in celebration of their passage to the next phase.
With one round still to go on Tuesday, there is nothing left to play for as all six group winners are now known. Join FIFA.com for a run-down of Friday’s action.
Match of the day
Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 Haiti
Haiti are one of only four Caribbean nations to reach a FIFA World Cup™; they were crowned champions of the Caribbean in 2007 and have a population of nearly ten million from which to pick a national team. But that didn’t keep them from going out at the hands of tiny neighbours Antigua and Barbuda (population approx. 89,000), who made history in front of 5000 fans in a cricket stadium in their capital of St. John’s. A visit from mighty Haiti was supposed to be the end of the rainbow. However Kerry Skepple, a 30-year-old journeyman midfielder who once had a brief stint in the Finnish second division, was in the mood to cause a sensation. He poked home the most important goal in Antigua and Barbuda’s sporting history with eight minutes to go. The Antiguans now join the big boys in the next round, where they take on USA, Jamaica and Guatemala.
In other action
El Salvador kept up their perfect record in Group A with a simple 3-1 win over Suriname to ensure a place in the next round, where they join a complicated group containing Mexico, Costa Rica and surprise package Guyana. The other game, a meaningless affair between already-eliminated Dominican Republic and Cayman Islands saw the Dominicans inflict a 4-0 defeat against the section’s whipping boys.
Trinidad and Tobago suffered a similar fate to Haiti in Group B, losing 2-1 to a much-improved Guyana (goals from Ricky Shakes and Leon Cort) in Georgetown to see their Brazil 2014 qualifying hopes crumble. Since debuting at the FIFA World Cup in 2006, things have gone from bad to worse for the so-called Soca Warriors.
In the earlier game, one played only for pride, Bermuda continued their fine recent form with a 2-1 win over Barbados, who finally had something to shout about as they scored their first goal of a disastrous campaign.
Nicaragua beat Dominica 1-0 in Group C, where Panama were already assured a first-place finish in the three-team section. Over in Group D, Canada sealed their place in the next round, however unimpressively. A 0-0 draw on the road in St Kitts and Nevis wasn’t exactly a spectacle of thrill-a-minute football, but it was enough for first place. The Canucks will meet long-time bogey side Honduras, plus Cuba and Panama, in the next round.
Group E winners Guatemala picked up yet another win with a 3-0 result over Grenada. The other game in the section ended in a 1-1 draw between Belize and St Vincent and the Grenadines, both out of the running before kicking off.
Over in Group F, Curacao made easy meat of an outgunned US Virgin Islands in a game with no competitive value that served as prologue to one of the biggest shocks of qualifying so far as Antigua and Barbuda knocked out giants Haiti.
Player of the day – Mark Blanco (El Salvador)
Isidro Metapán’s latest wunderkind, 22-year-old Blanco, was in inspired form. Scoring once with his head and once with his foot in a 3-1 win that saw the Salvadorans through to the next stage of qualifying, the striker was a constant nuisance to the host Surinamese. Ranging and stalking on the shoulder of the last man, he caused headaches aplenty for Suriname’s rearguard, who were unable to cope with his pace, power and incisive reading of the game.
What they said
“We knew they needed the three points and that they [St Kitts] would come out and go for it. We came here and we knew we had to get a point by playing a road style and we got that, so all in all we’re OK,” Canada coach Stephen Hart defends his side’s defensive display in Basseterre. The goalless draw was enough for a place in the next round.
367 – The number of minutes of football played by Barbados before they scored their first goal of the Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign, a calm finish from Diquan Adamson in a losing effort, their fifth consecutive loss.
CONCACAF second round, matchday 5
Dominican Republic 4-0 Cayman Islands
Bermuda 2-1 Barbados
Belize 1-1 St Vincent/Grenadines
US Virgin Islands 0-3 Curacao
Suriname 1-3 El Salvador
Nicaragua 1-0 Dominica
Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 Haiti
Guyana 2-1 Trinidad and Tobago
St. Kitts and Nevis 0-0 Canada
St. Lucia 0-4 Puerto Rico
Guatemala 3-0 Grenada