Panama and El Salvador can both book places alongside Mexico in the final six-team round of CONCACAF qualifying with positive results on Friday. Elsewhere, Costa Rica will try to revive their campaign, while USA aim to dig out of a road-hole that threatens to end their run of six consecutive FIFA World Cup™ appearances.
The big game
El Salvador-Costa Rica
Central America powerhouses Costa Rica are flirting with disaster, and defeat on the road at the Estadio Cuscatlan would eliminate them, sending El Salvador through. Fulham-based playmaker Bryan Ruiz is back from injury for the Ticos and Alvaro Saborio, who has four goals in as many games, is confident in his side’s chances. “We've got what it takes to make the difference and qualify for the final round,” said the Real Salt Lake ace. But El Salvador have only lost once at home in the campaign, and then only 2-1 to mighty Mexico, Olympic and CONCACAF champions.
The best of the rest
USA, Jamaica and Guatemala are balanced precariously in Group A, all with seven points. The Americans, who are without injured creator Landon Donovan, head to eliminated Antigua and Barbuda in a tricky test against an opponent playing only for pride, with nothing to lose. “This is a tough one for us as Antigua will make big history for themselves if they beat us,” USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann told FIFA.com (read the entire exclusive interview via the link on the right).
The other game sees Jamaica, flying high under former playing star Theodore Whitmore, travel to Guatemala as the section goes right down to the wire.
Star-studded Mexico, with a perfect 12 points from four games played, are already through to the final round as Group B winners. Minnows Guyana are out with only one point to show for their efforts, leaving El Salvador and Costa Rica to battle dramatically for the one remaining ticket through.
Panama lead Group C with nine points, two better than Honduras and Canada. Cuba, with zero points, are eliminated. A win for Panama at home against the Hondurans would book their passage through, or a draw could also do the job for the Canaleros if Canada avoid defeat in their home clash with the Cubans. “If we don’t beat Honduras, we’ll have our backs to the wall,” Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes told FIFA.com.
What they’re saying
“Cuba have nothing to lose, so they will be loose and play free. But we can’t worry about that. We need to keep creating chances and get the win that we need to put us in a good spot ahead of our last game with Honduras,” Canada and English Premier League side Norwich City striker Simeon Jackson ahead of the home test with eliminated Cuba in Toronto, a must-win for the Canucks who have only scored two goals so far in the round.
1986 – The last FIFA World Cup that didn’t include USA among its competitors, a stretch of 26 years that is under threat as the Stars and Stripes struggle in Group A. Six players in Klinsmann’s current squad weren’t even born in 1986.
CONCACAF semi-final qualifying round, matchday 5
Antigua and Barbuda-USA
El Salvador-Costa Rica
Have your say
Can USA overcome their road woes and jangling nerves to beat Antigua and Barbuda in St John's? Will Panama and El Salvador qualify with a game to go? Click ‘add your comment’ and let us know what you think.