CONCACAF giants Mexico and USA head into Matchday 2 of group-stage qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ hoping for more of the same after easy wins on Friday night. Panama and Costa Rica meet in a clash for sole leadership in Group B, while Jamaica attempt to revive their fortunes after a surprise opening defeat at home in Kingston. Join FIFA.com for a look ahead to all of Tuesday’s action.
The big game
The Panamanians grabbed the headlines on opening day, beating CONCACAF Gold Cup runners-up Jamaica 2-0 on the road. The result was no fluke, nor the product of turgid, counter-attacking tactics. Instead, the Canaleros, who have claims to being the most improved team in the region over the last 20 years, surged into attack, controlled possession and played to win. They return home to their Estadio Rommel Fernandez, where they lost only one game in a marathon of Brazil 2014 qualifying, to take on Costa Rica, who did not hit the high notes in their home win against Haiti, but still got the job done with a 1-0 win. With bragging rights on the line, the Central American Group B derby tops Tuesday’s match-ups.
Honduras and Mexico meet in San Pedro Sula in Group A, with the host Catrachos eager to put their 1-0 loss to Canada in Vancouver behind them. Former Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto is taking his time whipping his Hondurans into shape, and with Mexico firing on all cylinders under their new boss, Juan Carlos Osorio, options are running low.
The other game in the group sees Canada, playing a new brand of mature, possession football under Spanish coach Benito Floro, travel to El Salvador. The Central Americans looked out of their depth at Azteca last week, losing 3-0 to CONCACAF champions Mexico, but they are bound to be a different animal entirely at home in San Salvador.
Group B sees an all-Caribbean grudge match between Jamaica and Haiti in Port-Au-Prince. The Reggae Boyz look a far cry from the side that beat USA in the Gold Cup this summer and will be keen to get things right against the Haitians, who stretched Costa Rica in their first match and were unlucky not to earn a draw.
Group C might look like a cakewalk for USA, but their opening day rout of St. Vincent and the Grenadines might be a false dawn. Up next for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men is a meeting with Trinidad and Tobago, bursting with hungry, young talent, who were good value for their 2-1 win over Guatemala away from home. Captain Kenwyne Jones, who scored the winner on Friday, is the linchpin in a Soca Warriors team that could well surprise a few pundits and fans.
The other game in the section is a bottom-of-the-table meeting between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Guatemala. SVG had trouble keeping up with the Americans despite taking a shock early lead, and they will need to take full advantage of their home edge when they play on the bumpy cricket oval a few paces from the Caribbean Sea.
Player to watch
Joel Campbell, Costa Rica
Signed by English Premier League giants Arsenal when still in his teens, the gifted and powerful striker, just 23, has spent his career out on loan – in France and Spain and Greece. But now he is back in London, and into Arsene Wenger’s starting XI. His technical ability and speed put him a cut above most defenders in the region. And although he failed to find the back of the net last week, he looked hungry and lively and ready to claim the mantle of one of CONCACAF’s top stars.
Did you know?
When the United States travel to Port of Spain on Tuesday, they will be returning to the site of one of their most historic moments. Needing a win on the road at that same Hasely Crawford Stadium against a T&T side with Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy in 1989, Paul Caligiuri wrote his name in the history books with a looping volley that came to be known as 'the shot heard ‘round the world'. It brought the USA back to the World Cup after 40 years away and they have qualified for every finals since.
What they said
“We can tell only as much as we saw from a game in which we controlled and dominated. I’m happy with the number of goals we scored, but we had many chances to score more. We were consistent against El Salvador, but we lacked efficiency.” Mexico’s new coach Juan Carlos Osorio clearly expects more from his Mexico team, despite a comfortable opening win.
Fixtures (Round Four, Matchday 2)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines-Guatemala
Trinidad & Tobago-USA