THE DAY REPLAYED – Mexico kept up their dazzling form in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ with a simple win on the road in Canada, while USA looked listless in Guatemala City. Costa Rica relinquished their perfect record as Honduras earned their first point of the campaign, but the draw in El Salvador wasn’t enough to see the Catrachos off the foot of their group. FIFA.com wraps up the Round Four action from Friday night in CONCACAF.
Match of the day
Guatemala 2-0 USA
Rafael Morales 7, Carlos Ruiz 15
USA’s road woes continued with a 2-0 loss at Guatemala’s Estadio Mateo Flores. A pair of goals inside the first quarter-hour from Rafael Morales and veteran striker Carlos Ruiz saw the Americans, who drew drably on the road in Port of Spain in their last outing, lose their first game of the campaign and drop to third in Group C ahead of only St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The result, a first-ever loss to Guatemala in World Cup qualifying, puts more pressure on US coach Jurgen Klinsmann whose side – full of surprise decisions and new faces – looked flat and unsure over 90 hard minutes.
Group A’s marquis affair saw Mexico keep up their rampaging form with a 3-0 drubbing of Canada in Vancouver. Despite a huge and lively home crowd, the Canucks failed to gel. And the CONCACAF champions weren’t in generous mood, scoring through Javier Chicharito Hernandez, Hirving Lozano and Jesus Corona to increase their lead to five at the top of the section.
Struggling Honduras, under former Costa Rica boss Jorge Luis Pinto, were on their way to picking up a first win of the campaign, only for El Salvador to draw level at 2-2 in the 88th minute through a towering header from Nelson Bonilla.
The big game in Group B between Jamaica and Costa Rica ended all-square at 1-1. Real Madrid net-minder Keylor Navas, arguably the best keeper in the world, was beaten by an early header from Jevaughn Watson – the New England Revolution man scoring his first goal in four years. But Johnny Acosta took advantage of an opportunistic rebound in the 67th minute to even it up. The result sees the Ticos surrender their perfect record in qualifying, but the darlings of Brazil 2014 are still on top of their group with seven points, three more than closest chasers Jamaica and Panama.
In the other game in the section, Haiti – hunting their first point of the round – had the better of the chances on the artificial turf against Panama in Port Au Prince. But Canalero goalkeeper Jaime Penedo was unbeatable in a dull, goalless affair.
The first game of the day came from a cricket ground in Kingstown, where hosts St. Vincent and the Grenadines gave Trinidad and Tobago all they could handle in a five-goal Group C thriller. In the end, the Soca Warriors pulled out the result 3-2 to go one point clear of Guatemala at the top.
Player of the day
Levi Garcia (Trinidad and Tobago)
The 18-year-old winger came on at the half with the Soca Warriors having trouble on the road against minnows St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The teenager, who plays his club football in the Netherlands for AZ Alkmaar and is touted as the hottest young talent from the islands since Dwight Yorke, didn’t waste time making his mark. He scored twice in his senior debut, the first a right-footed cracker after a series of elegant step-overs. The second was a simple tap-in on the end of a long ball to win the night for the visitors. A tidy wide-man with bags of pace and skill, Garcia earned a hug of congratulations – and relief – from manager Stephen Hart.
1 – The number of teams remaining in CONCACAF qualifying with a 100 per cent record. Costa Rica dropped points in Kingston, leaving regional champions Mexico, under master tactician Juan Carlos Osorio, the only perfect team left in the zone, on nine points from three games and flying high.
Did you know?
Carlos Ruiz, Guatemala’s captain and all-time top-scorer, will miss his country’s return leg on Tuesday in USA, where he won a league title with LA Galaxy in 2002. The 36-year-old, with 60 goals for the national team, is barred from leaving Guatemala because of a legal dispute over a property he owns. “It’s sad because I want to play every game, but this is our justice,” said Ruiz, who scored the second in Guatemala’s big win against the States. “You can’t do anything.”
What they said
“It was a lack of focus, a lack of concentration, and just plain wrong decisions. But I still believe in these players,” USA coach Klinsmann on the two goals his side conceded in their loss on Friday, a first to Guatemala for nearly 30 years.
Results (Round Four, Matchday 3)
El Salvador 2-2 Honduras
Canada 0-3 Mexico
Haiti 0-0 Panama
Jamaica 1-0 Costa Rica
Guatemala 2-0 USA
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2-3 Trinidad and Tobago
Up next (Round Four, Matchday 4)
Trinidad and Tobago-St. Vincent and the Grenadines