Tuesday’s fixtures in CONCACAF Round Four qualifying for Russia 2018 will feel like déjà vu for fans and player both. The games are all the same as those contested last week, only with swapped venues. Costa Rica have a chance to keep up their undefeated record when they host Jamaica, who held them to a draw on Friday. Mexico welcome Canada hoping for more of the same and keen to keep up their perfect record, while USA will hope simply to avoid a repeat of the dreadful performance in Guatemala City, where they lost and failed to score. FIFA.com previews all the action on Tuesday.
The Big Game
Usually, a home fixture against Guatemala would be as good as money in the bank for the Stars and Stripes. But this time under-fire coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his misfiring players will not be oozing confidence. They looked out of sorts at the Estadio Mateo Flores last week and were undone by a pair of goals from set-pieces inside the opening 15 minutes. The loss saw them slip to third in Group C and was their first defeat to Guatemala in World Cup qualifying history, and their first loss to them – in any competition – for nearly 30 years. The visitors, on the other hand, are riding a wave. Goalkeeper Paulo Motta was a sensation in Friday’s win, but Los Chapines will have to do without captain and top-scorer Carlos Ruiz, who is barred from leaving his home country due to a dispute over a property he owns.
Mexico are the form team in the region under new boss Juan Carlos Osorio. Their 3-0 win over Canada in Vancouver last week underlines the side’s perfect record, and stretched their lead at the top of Group A to a full five points. Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez scored in Vancouver and is hitting top gear as the goal-shy Canucks head down to the Estadio Azteca.
The other game in the section pits Honduras, without a win in three games and rock-bottom with only one point, against a much-improved El Salvador, in third on two points.
Group B’s most eye-catching match-up is a replay between Jamaica and Costa Rica in San Jose. After a tense draw in Kingston last week, the two section favorites will want to stamp their authority at the top of the group with a full three-point haul. Los Ticos currently lead the group, three points ahead of Jamaica and Panama, who are tangled in second.
Panama and Haiti square off in Panama City with both sides, hopefully, gunning for more than the goalless draw they labored through in Port Au Prince last time out.
Trinidad and Tobago fans will expect better from their Soca Warriors in Port of Spain, too, when they meet bottom side St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a team that stretched them in a 3-2 Group C thriller on Friday in Kingstown.
Player to Watch
Lee Nguyen (USA)
The playmaker's technical nous might be just what the doctor ordered for Klinsmann’s ailing USA. None of the myriad tactical switches the German boss made in Guatemala panned out for the Stars and Stripes, and Nguyen is a player of uncommon technical ability. “It’s my job to unlock defences,” the New England Revolution schemer told FIFA.com, hoping for his debut in qualifying. “I feel at home doing it and it’ the part of the game I like best.” Having spent a spell in the exotic environs of Vietnamese football, Nguyen’s possession and distribution could be the tonic for a seemingly declining US side.
Did you know?
Mexico have yet to concede a goal in their Russia 2018 qualifying campaign. After struggling famously in their run to Brazil 2014 – requiring an intercontinental play-off with New Zealand to book a place – the ten-time CONCACAF champs have hit an imperial stride. El Tri are averaging nearly three goals a game and their rearguard doesn’t look like they’re in the mood to let one in soon.
What they said
“The coach [Stephen Hart] told me in the locker-room, ‘Just go out there and do what you came to do.’ That’s what I did and, wow, what an experience!” Teenage winger Levi Garcia of Trinidad and Tobago made the most of his first senior cap on Friday, coming on at half-time and scoring twice to help the Soca Warriors to victory.
Fixtures (Round Four, Matchday 4)
Trinidad and Tobago-St. Vincent and the Grenadines