Mexico travel north to take on long-time rivals USA with confidence at an all-time low. They suffered defeat last week at their Estadio Azteca for only the second time in their 77-game qualifying history. Now they need a win in the States, a place where they rarely manage victories. The USA, for their part, can qualify with two games to spare should they win and other results go their way. Honduras head home in hopes of building on the glories of their win over Mexico and Costa Rica make the trip to sunny Jamaica hoping to pile more misery on the last-place islanders and book their own place at next year’s finals.
Join FIFA.com for a preview of Tuesday’s matchday eight in the CONCACAF qualifying Hexagonal for the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014™.
The big game
The trans-Rio Grande clasico is a circled date on calendars across the CONCACAF zone. And this meeting between the two bitter rivals promises to be even spicier than usual. The Mexicans are currently in the midst of a bona fide crisis and need a win to dig out of fourth place, outside the three direct qualifying spots. In their seven games so far, the Mexicans have failed to win at home and have looked a shadow of the side that stormed to the CONCACAF Gold Cup crown in 2011. The loss to Honduras at home last week was just too much for the powers that be, and coach Jose Manuel Chepo de la Torre was axed.
Luis Fernando Tena, the man who led Mexico to a gold medal at the London Olympics last summer, takes the reins for the game against USA, hoping to coax the best from under-performing stars like Andres Guardado, Gio dos Santos and Javier Chicharito Hernandez. He will, however, be without the services of enforcer Gerardo Torrado, missing through suspension.
The Americans head into the game, in Columbus, Ohio, wanting also to pick up the pieces, albeit in less dramatic fashion. The 3-1 loss in Costa Rica last week was the first time the States had been beaten in 12 games. Even so, the defeat knocked Jurgen Klinsmann’s men off top spot after a long stretch in pole position. The German boss will also have to deal with some notable absences. Midfield engine Michael Bradley hasn’t recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of the Costa Rica game. Free-scoring Jozy Altidore, and the defensive duo of Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron, will also miss through suspension. All is not doom and gloom for the Americans, however, as a win could see them qualify for Brazil with two games to go as long as Honduras avoids defeat to second-bottom Panama in their game.
Third-place Honduras return to the comforts of home as conquering heroes after their come-from-behind win at Azteca – a first in their history. They now host a Panama side that were held to a draw by strugglers Jamaica in their last game. Luis Fernando Suarez’s Hondurans are undefeated at home in the Hexagonal, and their muscular, speedy style is beginning to look good enough to see them through to a second straight world finals next summer.
Jamaica are in trouble – plain and simple. The Reggae Boyz will be all but eliminated with anything less than a win on Tuesday. First place Costa Rica head to Kingston hoping to cement their lead against the host islanders who have not won, and only scored once, in their seven games. New Jamaican boss Winfried Schaefer will be desperate to keep the dream alive, but a loss could be fatal. “We have to win all three of our games now; it’s that simple,” he said.
What they’re saying
"Qualifying is all about ups and downs. It's never easy. Every time is hard. So we've got to get ourselves recovered physically, recovered mentally, and we have to beat Mexico." USA’s Gold Cup hero Landon Donovan, back in Klinsmann’s qualifying side after being left out for the lion’s share of the Hexagonal, makes it sound easy ahead of the clasico with wounded Mexico.
63 – times previously, contentious neighbours Mexico and United states have met on a football pitch. The Mexicans still retain a numerical advantage, with 33 wins to USA’s 16. But in recent times, the Americans have begun to pressure their friends to the south for dominance in the region. The last time Mexico won a FIFA World Cup qualifier on US soil was well back in the era of skin-tight shorts and Afro hairstyles, 10 September 1972, in Los Angeles.
CONCACAF final round Hexagonal, matchday 8
1. Costa Rica (14)
2. USA (13)
3. Honduras (10)
4. Mexico (8)
5. Panama (7)
6. Jamaica (3)
Have your say
Who will be the first to qualify from the zone: USA or Costa Rica? Can Mexico revive their flagging fortunes? Click ‘add your comment’ and let us know what you think.