THE DAY REPLAYED – With the exception of on-a-roll Mexico and a steely display from Honduras, it was not a good day for the big names in the North, Central American and Caribbean Zone of 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying. FIFA.com brings you the best of a round of games on which regional heavyweights USA, surprise packages Panama and El Salvador all failed to take three points.
Two of CONCACAF’s most-decorated nations went head-to-head in a high-voltage clash, with the Costa Ricans still clinging onto memories of El Aztecazo – a historic victory in Mexico City’s fortress-like Estadio Azteca. El Tri, for their part, were buoyed by an 11-year unbeaten run against Los Ticos since that 2001 setback.
It was recent history that repeated itself in this meeting at the new Estadio Nacional in San Jose. Mexico strode to a comfortable win thanks to goals from players better known for their defensive prowess, Carlos Salcido and Jesus Zavala, with both efforts resulting from corners. And overall, it must be said Los Aztecas were worthy winners against a Tico team missing their inspirational attacker Bryan Ruiz – the Fulham star unable to take part due to injury.
The result took the Mexicans to nine points from three games, thus cementing their place at the top of Group B and signifying a giant step towards Round 4 and the decisive ‘Hexagonal Final’. Despite the defeat, Los Ticos held on to second spot, with their four-point tally still two clear of third-placed El Salvador, who led twice at home to Guyana only to be held to a shock 2-2 draw.
Unable to follow the Mexicans’ lead were their arch-rivals USA, who visited Jamaica full of confidence after August’s historic friendly win over El Tri in the Azteca. Yet Jurgen Klinsmann’s team were never able to get into their stride in the face of a strong Reggae Boyz performance and the fervour of the fans in Kingston, going down to a 2-1 Group A defeat even after opening the scoring early on through Clint Dempsey.
Another of the region’s traditional forces, Honduras, did manage to make their pedigree count when picking up a resounding 3-0 success in the always testing surrounds of Cuba, their goals coming from Jerry Bengtson, Victor Bernardez and Marvin Chavez. In the other game in Group C, Panama’s 100-per-cent start to Round 3 came to an end on Canadian soil. The hosts put in a solid and effective display to neutralise Los Canaleros’ potent attack and clinch a 1-0 win.
In the night’s final match, Guatemala were able to recover from the shock of conceding an early goal to Antigua and Barbuda’s Paul Byers. Los Chapines were grateful to iconic striker Carlos Pescadito Ruiz, whose two goals turned the scoreline around and paved the way for a 3-1 win. His country moved onto four points and into joint second spot in Group A, three points behind Jamaica and level with the United States.
Player to watch
Treyon Bobb (GUY)
Guyana went into their game in San Salvador fully aware that defeat would virtually see their hopes of reaching the Hexagonal Final go up in smoke. Trailing twice against hosts El Salvador, they rescued a point after levelling on both occasions via lightning counter-attacks finished off by their excellent left-winger Treyon Bobb.
11 – The number of games Costa Rica have gone without a win against Mexico since they sank El Tri in the famous Aztecazo of 2001. What is more, Los Ticos have not beaten their regional rivals on Costarricense soil for two decades now.
What they said
“I didn’t expect us to win by three goals. It was a real blessing for me to score on my return to the national side. We’re back in the hunt now and full of confidence in our qualifying chances,” Honduras striker Jerry Bengtson after the 3-0 win in Cuba.