Mexico and USA both pulled off predictable wins against lightweight opposition in their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying openers, but neither one of the CONCACAF giants had things all their own way. Canada and Panama both grabbed impressive wins on the road, while Jamaica also emerged victorious.
FIFA.com wraps up all the action from the first day of semi-final round qualifying in North, Central America and the Caribbean.
Match of the day
Honduras 0-2 Panama
Home-field advantage counts for much in the CONCACAF zone, making Panama’s win on the road in Honduras all the more impressive. Blas Perez of MLS club FC Dallas came up the hero with a pair of goals for the Panamanians, who are hunting their first-ever appearance at a FIFA World Cup finals. The so-called Super Raton’s first strike displayed his prowess with the ball on the turf, as he turned brilliantly and fired home. His second was a no-nonsense, thumping header. The Honduran fans in San Pedro Sula were clearly not happy after the final whistle, and they will be expecting more from their heroes next time out.
In other action
Jurgen Klinsmann won his first competitive game as USA coach as his North Americans defeated Caribbean minnows Antigua and Barbuda at the rain-soaked Raymond James Stadium in Florida. The United States looked wobbly in patches, but scrappy goals from captain Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Mexico-based Herculez Gomez were enough to see the Stars and Stripes to the summit of Group A with a 3-1 win. “It wasn’t pretty, but we ground it out,” said Gomez after the game.
Jamaica had no troubles at home in Kingston, where they beat Guatemala 2-1. Demar Phillips and Ryan Johnson put the Reggae Boyz up alongside the Americans at the top of the section, while Dwight Pezzarossi’s late strike was mere consolation for the Central Americans.
CONCACAF champions Mexico opened their Group B account with a simple victory over Guyana at their fortress-like Estadio Azteca. Carlos Salcido opened the scoring in the 11th minute and then turned provider in the 15th, beginning a lovely move that led to a Giovani Dos Santos goal. Guyana defender John Rodrigues made it 3-0 for Mexico early in the second half when he clumsily put through his own net. Hector Moreno did the same at the other end shortly after, though, to make the final score 3-1.
Group B’s other game was a high-tempo, all-Central American contest between Costa Rica and El Salvador, which finished tangled at 2-2 following a lengthy delay due to a power outage at the stadium in San Jose.
Panama pulled off a shocker on the road in San Pedro Sula, beating Group C favourites Honduras 2-0 to take pole position in the section.
The other game in the group saw Canada also win out on the road, earning a tricky 1-0 victory against Cuba in Havana. Germany-based striker Olivier Occean took advantage of some slack defending to head home the game’s only goal as the Canadians lost first-choice goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld to a red card and barely survived a late Cuban onslaught. “We got our one chance and our one goal, three points…fantastic,” said an elated Occean after the game.
Player of the day – Carlos Salcido (MEX)
On a day when the fancied Mexicans never quite got into their free-flowing fifth gear in attack, defensive bastion Carlos Salcido of Tigres was at his best level. Putting out fires, patrolling large swaths of the pitch, winning balls and delivering them to the front, the 32-year-old stalwart - with over 100 caps to his name - was invaluable to El Tri. It was an honest night’s work for Salcido, who also scored an unlikely opener and helped create an extravagant second.
What they said
“We did not play well tonight and we have many things that we need to improve. Chepo (Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre) was angry after the game, and he was right to be," Mexico striker Aldo De Nigris on his side’s lacklustre performance.
2 – The number of minutes Antigua and Barbuda substitute Peter ‘Big Pete’ Byers was on the field before scoring. The Caribbean team’s all-time top scorer, Byers is also the current top marksman in CONCACAF qualifying. He rounded Oguchi Onyewu with his first touch in the 64th minute and tapped past Tim Howard to silence a noisy, pro-USA crowd. Although it was an historic moment for the journeyman striker and his unheralded island nation, the Americans comfortably won the day.
CONCACAF third round, matchday one
Cuba 0-1 Canada
USA 3-1 Antigua and Barbuda
Mexico 3-1 Guyana
Honduras 0-2 Panama
Costa Rica 2-2 El Salvador
Jamaica 2-1 Guatemala
Antigua and Barbuda-Jamaica