CONCACAF giants Mexico pulled off a tricky win on the road in Central America, while USA could only manage a draw on the second matchday of the region’s semi-final round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. Panama, who are chasing their first-ever appearance at a world finals, kept up their 100 per cent record in the round, while Honduras’ dreadful start only got worse.
Join FIFA.com for a look back at all the action from Tuesday night in North, Central America and the Caribbean.
Match of the day
El Salvador 1-2 Mexico
It wasn’t the prettiest game you’ll ever see, but a win on the road in El Salvador is worth its weight in qualifying gold. The Mexicans looked cowed by the intense atmosphere at the Estadio Cuscatlan early on, only settling into the match midway through the first half. The visitors finally carved out an opening on the hour mark, with Jesus Eduardo Zavala side-footing home against the run of play. The hosts' response came just five minutes later when Alfredo Pacheco slammed his free-kick into the bottom corner to the delight of the frenzied fans. Hector Moreno, though, sealed the deal for Mexico eight minutes from time with a goal worthy of the Keystone Cops. The Spain-based man got his head to a set-piece cross, only for Salvadoran goalkeeper Benji Villalobos to make an instinctive save. Unfortunately for the home side, the ball rebounded back off Moreno’s head again, trickling over the goal-line.
In other action
Antigua and Barbuda picked up their first-ever point at this stage of the competition thanks to a goalless draw with Jamaica at home. Peter ‘Big Pete’ Byers looked lively in attack for the tiny dual-island nation, while young winger Quinton Griffith and defender George Dublin also put in impressive shifts for the Caribbean up-and-comers. Jamaica, led by speedy New York Red Bull man Dane Richards, never stamped their alleged superiority on the match and were fortunate to escape St. John’s with a share of the spoils.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA share top spot with the Jamaicans in Group A after a 1-1 draw with Guatemala in decidedly inhospitable conditions. Clint Dempsey looked like the hero once again for the Americans as he collected a through ball, slipped past a pair of defenders and slammed home five minutes from the interval. However, substitute Marco Papa forced the stalemate with a late free-kick.
Costa Rica were in smashing form on the road in Guyana, winning 4-0 with a trio of goals from veteran striker Alvaro Saborio and another from teenage sensation Joel Campbell, on the books at EPL giants Arsenal. The Golden Jaguars have now lost both of their games and are left with a steep hill to climb. Mexico, thanks to their gritty win on the road in El Salvador, top Group B with a perfect six points from two games.
Canada failed to make home-field advantage fully count in Toronto, drawing 0-0 with Honduras despite creating a number of decent chances. The one-time Group C favourite Catrachos lost their first match to Panama at home, and have yet to score in qualifying. The Canadians are now two points behind the Canaleros of Panama, who stormed to the top of the section with their second consecutive victory. Nelson Barahona scored midway through the second half in Panama City to seal a 1-0 win over Cuba, the Caribbean side’s second loss in as many outings.
Player of the day – Alvaro Saborio (CRC)
Costa Rica’s goalmouth predator was simply unstoppable, grabbing a clinical hat-trick in hostile territory against Guyana. Formerly of Swiss side FC Sion and Deportivo Saprissa, Saborio’s poaching talents were well on display as he claimed two headers and one volley in a classy performance. Saborio is the all-time top scorer for current club Real Salt Lake, and his four goals in two games for Los Ticos make him top scorer in the semi-final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
What they said
“I thought they'd be a little more adventurous. They were very nervous…They tried to take control of the midfield, but they really didn't create, most of their chances were from way outside.” Even Canada coach Stephen Hart was surprised at how little Honduras produced in Toronto.
8 – The number of goals scored by players plying their club trade in Major League Soccer over the last two CONCACAF qualifying matchdays. Alvaro Saborio of Costa Rica and Real Salt Lake (4), Blas Perez of Panama and FC Dallas (2), Ryan Johnson of Jamaica and Toronto FC (1), Marco Pappa of Guatemala and Chicago Fire (1).
CONCACAF third round, matchday day
Antigua and Barbuda 0-0 Jamaica
El Salvador 1-2 Mexico
Canada 0-0 Honduras
Guatemala 1-1 USA
Guyana 0-4 Costa Rica
Panama 1-0 Cuba