Mexico beat Costa Rica to advance to the final six-team phase of the CONCACAF qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and leave their opponents struggling for survival. Meanwhile, the USA and Honduras both won to move back into the qualifying places in their respective groups.
In contrast Cuba became the first side to be eliminated from the competition, a fate that is all but certain to befall Antigua and Barbuda unless they can work a miracle in their final two games. FIFA.com reviews Tuesday’s events in the region.
Match of the day
Mexico 1-0 Costa Rica
Goal: Javier Hernandez 60
Handsome 2-0 winners at San Jose’s Estadio Nacional last Friday, Mexico went into this game with their sights set on booking an early place in the fourth and final qualifying round, while Los Ticos were anxious to avoid a defeat that would leave them staring elimination in the face.
Battling to avoid such an outcome, the Costa Ricans acquitted themselves better than they had done four days previously, but the game was up for them on the hour mark, when Javier Hernandez broke through their defensive barrier to score the only goal of the match and his first in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Victory maintained the Mexicans’ perfect record and sent them into the final phase two games early. The picture is a good deal gloomier for Los Ticos. Now relegated to third place in Group B by El Salvador’s 3-2 win at Guyana, they will go out of the competition if they lose away to La Selecta in their next outing on 12 October.
While the Mexicans can now afford to put their feet up, arch rivals USA have no such luxury, though they remain masters of their own destiny after downing Jamaica 1-0 in Columbus, avenging last Friday’s 2-1 defeat to the same opposition in Kingston.
Herculez Gomez’s strike ten minutes into the second half took the Americans on to seven points in Group A and into a three-way tie with the Jamaicans and Guatemala, who edged out bottom-placed Antigua and Barbuda thanks to Carlos “Pescadito” Ruiz’s solitary goal. Guatemala and the USA now share the top two spots on goal difference, one goal better off than the Reggae Boyz, with Antigua and Barbuda, who remain bottom on one point, virtually out of the running.
In Group C regional heavyweights Honduras stayed in contention for a place in the next round following their second defeat of Cuba in four days, secured by a lone Jerry Bengtson goal. In the other match in the section, Rolando Blackburn and Blas Perez were both on target as Panama downed Canada 2-0 to gain instant revenge for last week’s reverse in Toronto. Back on top with nine points, the Panamanians stand two clear of Honduras and the Canadians, while Cubans - still without a point - are now out of the competition.
Player of the day
Herculez Gomez (USA)
Failure to beat Jamaica would have left the USA in real danger of not reaching the final qualification phase. Though a combination of woodwork and fine goalkeeping caused American nerves to fray as the game went on, the Santos Laguna striker eased the tension with a superb free-kick 55 minutes in.
10 - The number of FIFA World Cup qualifiers Mexico have now gone unbeaten. El Tri’s last qualifying defeat was a 2-1 loss away to El Salvador on 6 June 2009, since when they have chalked up nine wins and a draw.
What they said
“We’ve been one of the best sides in the CONCACAF region behind Mexico and the USA for some time now, but we’re not through yet. We’ve taken a big step towards qualification, and as they show every time they play, this team is hungry to win,” Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes.