THE DAY REPLAYED – Panama and El Salvador both missed out on chances to book early passage to the final hexagonal round of qualifying in CONCACAF, while USA did themselves a world of good with a dramatic win in the Caribbean and Canada and Costa Rica took steps in the right direction.
Game of the day
El Salvador 0-1 Costa Rica
Goal: Jose Cubero 31’
A loss for Costa Rica at El Salvador’s intimidating Estadio Cuscatlan would have put the talented Ticos out of the running to reach Brazil 2014. But rather than let the pressure get to them, the Central American giants rose to the occasion, Jose Cubero’s lone goal bringing them back from the precipice to put the Ticos in prime position to join already qualified Mexico in the final hexagonal round from Group B. Costa Rica take on bottom side Guyana at home in their final match on Tuesday, while El Salvador – for whom all had looked so promising – will need to beat mighty Mexico in Torreon to have even a glimmer of a hope of progressing.
In other action
USA needed some last-minute heroics from two-goal man Eddie Johnson to secure an important 2-1 win on the road against already eliminated Antigua and Barbuda. They are now tangled with Guatemala at the top of Group A after the Central Americans pulled off a late-show of their own, Carlos Ruiz scoring in the 85th minute to edge Jamaica 2-1.
The Americans and Guatemala have ten points and Jamaica seven, meaning all three are still alive with a hope of claiming one of the two tickets to the final round on offer with one game to go on Tuesday.
Costa Rica’s heroic win in hostile territory in San Salvador puts them in second place and in pole position to join Mexico in the next round. The Mexicans, for their part, kept up their perfect Group B record with a 5-0 hammering of eliminated Guyana, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez getting in among the goals in a dominant performance from the reigning CONCACAF and Olympic champions.
Panama drew 0-0 with Honduras in front of an expectant capacity crowd at their Estadio Rommel Fernandez, missing out on the win that would have guaranteed them early qualification to the final round. Both sides had plenty of chances to score, but shoddy finishing and pesky woodwork kept the nets from bulging.
Elsewhere in Group C, Canada moved level with the Panamanians on ten points after a simple 3-0 win over an under-strength Cuba, who have failed to rack up a single point in the round. Tosaint Ricketts opened the scoring in Toronto, and Will Johnson and David Edgar added a pair of classy goals in the second half.
Player of the day - Eddie Johnson (USA)
They say good things come to those who wait, and Seattle Sounders striker Eddie Johnson has been waiting more than two years since his last call-up to the USA national team. He made his return count, too, scoring both goals, including a stoppage-time winner, in the USA’s crucial 2-1 victory on the road in Antigua and Barbuda. American coach Jurgen Klinsmann caused a minor controversy by selecting Johnson over Dutch-based ace Jozy Altidore, but he stuck to his guns, claiming “I don’t choose players based on the past, but on their form right now.”
3 – The number of goals scored by Canada against Cuba, one more than they managed in all four of their previous games in the round. “As long as you’re creating chances, that’s all that matters,” said Canuck striker Simeon Jackson of English Premier League side Norwich City. “Eventually they’ll start to fall.”
What they said
“It’s just reward for the performance we put in tonight. We created many chances and it looked pretty good overall. We didn’t lack initiative and we went forward at every opportunity,” Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre after his side’s 5-0 win over Guyana, a fifth-straight victory for the CONCACAF giants.
CONCACAF third round, matchday five
Antigua and Barbuda 1-2 USA
Canada 3-0 Cuba
El Salvador 0-1 Costa Rica
Guyana 0-5 Mexico
Guatemala 2-1 Jamaica
Panama 0-0 Honduras