THE DAY REPLAYED – Mexico kept up their sizzling form to become the first CONCACAF side through to the final Hexagonal round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. USA rebounded from their nightmare last week to rout Guatemala while Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama all made strides. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, sadly, became the first team eliminated after a heavy loss to Trinidad and Tobago. FIFA.com wraps up all the Tuesday action in the New World.
Match of the day
USA 4-0 Guatemala
Clint Dempsey 12, Geoff Cameron 35, Graham Zusi 46, Jozy Altidore 89
A dark cloud hung over the US national team in the build-up to Tuesday’s rematch with Guatemala. Having lost to Los Chapines in an insipid performance on Friday at the Estadio Mateo Flores, another defeat would have made the American road to Russia a rocky one. But Jurgen Klinsmann’s men rebounded with the heart and grit they’re known for, keeping their perfect qualifying record in Columbus, Ohio intact. Pressuring the Central Americans from the opening whistle, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley looked as inspired on Tuesday as they did tired last week. The big result puts the Stars and Stripes back on track, second in Group C behind Trinidad and Tobago on the road to the Hexagonal.
Mexico saw off a spirited Canadian side at their Estadio Azteca to keep up their 100-per cent record and book passage from Group A through to the next round. Andres Guardado scored first from the spot to notch his 23rd goal for El Tri before Jesus Corona added a second – his second in as many games.
Hosts Honduras edged a frenetic and energetic contest with El Salvador in San Pedro Sula. The 2-0 result moves Los Catrachos off the foot of Group A and up to second, tied with Canada in the hunt for the one remaining spot in the section.
The big game in Group B saw Costa Rica get the best of Jamaica 3-0 in San Jose. Celso Borges and Bryan Ruiz scored in the first half and Johan Venegas added a third late as Los Ticos strolled to the summit with a three-point gap ahead of closest chasers Panama. Felipe Baloy struck late as the host Panamanians edged out Haiti 1-0 to move into a comfortable pocket in second spot ahead of Jamaica.
Trinidad and Tobago matched USA for form in Group C, making easy meat of Caribbean neighbours St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Port of Spain. Sheldon Bateau, Joevin Jones, Kevin Molino, Trevin Caeser and veteran captain Kenwyne Jones scored the goals in a 6-0 drubbing that extends the Soca Warriors’ lead at the top of the section to three points.
Player of the day
Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica)
Costa Rica’s playmaker, a hero of the famous run to the quarter-finals of Brazil 2014, was inspired against Jamaica. After having a hand in Celso Borges’ opener, the elegant Portugal-based schemer had his way with the Reggae Boyz, scoring the second and orchestrating a comprehensive win against the CONCACAF Gold Cup runners-up. The 3-0 result, largely down to Ruiz’s vision and intelligence, makes Los Ticos a safe bet for a spot in the Hex.
6 – USA striker Clint Dempsey – his country’s top-scorer in World Cup qualifying history – has now scored six times against Guatemala. The combative Seattle Sounders hit-man had a raft of chances on Friday in Guatemala City, but he fluffed his lines time and again. Back on home soil, however, he showed the kind of precision that’s made him second-top scorer in US national team history, just eight goals behind legend Landon Donovan overall. Dempsey’s early strike, a half-volley from just inside the box, set the tone for a crucial American win.
Did you know?
St. Vincent and the Grenadines have conceded 26 goals in Russia 2018 qualifying so far. On average that’s over three goals per game. Coach Cornelius Huggins earlier in the campaign told FIFA.com: “We need to focus a little bit on our defence.” It was the understatement of the year. With no points in Group C and officially out of contention, the islanders still have two games to play.
What they said
“The difference tonight was the collective, the team coming together, and the willingness of every guy to forget about everything else and just spill their guts on the field,” Michael Bradley uses frank language to describe USA’s turnaround in fortunes and form.
Results (Round Four, Matchday 4)
Honduras 2-0 El Salvador
Mexico 2-0 Canada
Panama 1-0 Haiti
Costa Rica 3-0 Jamaica
USA 4-0 Guatemala
Trinidad and Tobago 6-0 St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Up next (Round Four, Matchday 5)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines-USA
Trinidad and Tobago-Guatemala