Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala, Canada, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and El Salvador have all begun CONCACAF group-stage qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ in perfect form. All these sides will be back in action on Friday with high hopes of keeping up their 100 per cent records against a field of lesser lights becoming ever-more desperate to pick up points in this third matchday in North, Central America and the Caribbean.
The big game
Bermuda-Trinidad and Tobago
The last time Caribbean giants Trinidad and Tobago travelled to Bermuda, in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying, they were shocked in a 2-1 defeat. “We beat them then and I’m confident we have the firepower to do it again,” Bermudan captain Khano Smith – a member of that winning Gombey Warriors team – told FIFA.com. The comparatively mighty Soca Warriors eventually overcame the setback and sent Bermuda packing, but the tiny Atlantic island gave T&T a run for their money again in their Brazil 2014 opener a month ago on the road in Port of Spain. They barely capitulated in a 1-0 reverse, and deserved better. “We deserved something from that game and I am sure we will get it this time out,” Smith added by way of warning to T&T, who will be without injured captain and scorer from the first leg, Kenwyne Jones.
The best of the rest
El Salvador, who last reached the world finals in 1982, are still riding high at the top of Group A with six points from their two games. They will face a tricky test away in San Cristobal when they take on the Dominican Republic, a side that stretched them 3-2 in their opening fixture in San Salvador. Second in the group, Suriname travel to Georgetown to take on whipping boys the Cayman Islands, who have conceded five goals in their two losses and look likely contenders for an early exit.
While Trinidad and Tobago tangle with Bermuda in Hamilton, fellow Group B leaders Guyana (tied on six points) are away in Bridgetown to meet up with Barbados. The Barbadians promised much in the run-up to their campaign, but they have yet to bag a point or score a goal in their two games and, with only the group winners moving on to the next stage, hopes are dimming.
Panama have a golden opportunity to take lone control of Group C when they travel to Dominica. Julio Dely Valdes’ Canaleros top the section (which only contains three teams after the Bahamas pulled out) on three points after beating Nicaragua in their opener.
Canada are coasting at the top of Group D with six points from two wins, and Stephen Hart’s men from the Great White North will be doing their all to avoid a slip-up when they travel to Roseau to take on St. Lucia, a side they beat handily in their opener. Also in action in the section are Puerto Rico, who host surprise packages St. Kitts and Nevis, occupants of second place.
Group E leaders Guatemala are in action against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who are tied for second place. Central American minnows Belize (the other team in second) will meet Grenada, who despite improving their standing in the Caribbean zone of late, have yet to pick up a point in their previous two Brazil 2014 qualifiers.
Both of Group F’s leaders, Haiti and Antigua and Barbuda, are in action away on Friday. The Haitians travel to the US Virgin Islands with all three points on their mind while the impressive Antiguans – led by the power and pace of Peter ‘Big Pete’ Byers – hope to add to their zone-best goals scored tally of 13 when they line up against Curacao in Willemstad.
Player to watch – Dwayne De Rosario (CAN)
Canada’s hot start to qualifying can be partially explained by the consistent leadership and fine play of one Dwayne De Rosario. The ultra-competitive striker/playmaker scored in the Canucks’ 4-1 win over St. Lucia and has played every minute of his side’s campaign so far. St. Lucia should be nervous when they face off with De Rosario again on Friday as he is fresh off a three-goal performance for MLS club side DC United, scoring a 31-minute hat-trick - the fastest in the North American league’s history.
What they said
“We’re doing better than we did in the 2010 World Cup campaign. Expectation is high among our fans as a result and we really believe we can get them partying in the streets. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Marco Pappa aims to get Guatemala, who have come so close on recent occasions, to their first FIFA World Cup finals.
CONCACAF second round, matchday three (Friday 7 October 2011)
Dominican Republic-El Salvador
St. Vincent and the Grenadines-Guatemala
US Virgin Islands-Haiti
Bermuda-Trinidad and Tobago
Puerto Rico-St. Kitts and Nevis
Curacao-Antigua and Barbuda
Have your say
Can Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala, Canada, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and El Salvador keep up their 100 per cent starts to qualifying?