THE DAY REPLAYED – Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz pulled off a stunning result, drawing Mexico 0-0 at the fabled Estadio Azteca to open the final ‘Hexagonal’ round of FIFA World Cup™ qualifying in North, Central America and the Caribbean. Elsewhere, Jurgen Klinsmann got a rude introduction to the so-called ‘Hex’ as his USA were beaten 2-1 on the road by Honduras, while Panama blew a two-goal lead to draw with Costa Rica. FIFA.com wraps up an eventful evening in CONCACAF.
The big game
Honduras 2-1 USA
Klinsmann’s Americans wilted in the humidity of San Pedro Sula, suffering their first loss in a Hexagonal opener since the format was adopted in 1998. The German boss opted for an inexperienced, new-look rearguard, with captain and veteran Carlos Bocanegra left on the bench. Even so, the Americans opened the scoring after 36 minutes, Clint Dempsey latching onto a brilliant chipped ball from Jermaine Jones to volley into the top corner. The dream didn’t last, however, and Honduras equalised via a Juan Carlos Garcia stunner five minutes before the interval. From there on, the visitors, who lacked a creative spark, lost their way, looking a decidedly uninspired lot. Honduras made certain of all three points when Jerry Bengston, who plays his club football in the US with New England Revolution, took advantage of a defensive miscue with eleven minutes to play.
In other action
Costa Rica came back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 on the road against Panama. Los Canaleros were rewarded for their frenzied early pressure, opening the scoring after 16 minutes when Luis Henriquez cut inside and struck from just inside the area. Roman Torres doubled the lead eleven minutes later, volleying home from close range after brilliant approach work by young sensation Marcos Sanchez. But Costa Rica, recently crowned champions of Central America, rebounded in style. Top scorer Alvaro Saborio bagged his seventh goal in qualifying to cut the deficit before the interval. Fulham schemer Bryan Ruiz, who had a fairly quiet game up to that point, then went on to steal a share of the spoils with an improvised overhead kick in the 84th minute.
Jamaica made history with a 0-0 draw against Mexico at their much-feared Estadio Azteca. The Mexicans, reigning Olympic and CONCACAF champions, looked out of sorts from the start, despite having such household names as Giovani Dos Santos, Javier Chicharito Hernandez and Andres Guardado in the side. And when they trudged off the pitch to a chorus of boos and clenched fists from their own fans, they will have breathed a sigh of relief. It was a game Mexico could well have lost. Ryan Johnson started as lone striker for the Reggae Boyz, hitting the post once and missing two golden opportunities. One wonders what top scorer Luton Shelton, who missed the match through injury, might have done with similar chances. In the end, the point is a famous one for the Jamaicans. It is their first-ever at the Azteca, and fittingly it came on the birthday of late reggae star Bob Marley, who so loved his football.
Player of the day – Donovan Ricketts (JAM)
The gigantic USA-based shot-stopper had the game of his life in Mexico City, making save after save to deny the much-fancied El Tri strikers and pulling every cross out of the air with calm and ease. In the 48th minute, the Montego Bay-born keeper got down like a snap to deny a quick-fire shot from Oribe Peralta, and in the dying moments he twice denied Manchester United ace Chicharito to keep the scoresheet clean.
Goal of the day - Juan Carlos Garcia
Just four minutes after Clint Dempsey silenced the San Pedro Sula crowd with a cleverly volleyed opener, Juan Carlos Garcia sent the home fans into raptures with an outrageous, acrobatic equaliser. A long, looping corner-kick was collected wide on the right by Victor Bernardez, who lofted the ball back into the penalty area. Maynor Figueroa chested it forward, where Garcia, a burly defender for local giants Olimpia, slammed home an overhead bicycle-kick that would make any striker jealous.
24 – The number of matches in Mexico’s winning streak in qualifying at the Azteca. Their draw with the Jamaicans is the first time they failed to win there since losing to Costa Rica – their only defeat in qualifying at the Azteca – in 2001. One wonders if the mystique of the old stadium is fading, as USA managed their first-ever win at the ground in a friendly late last year.
What they said
“We made too many mistakes and too many players didn’t play up to their potential. When you lose a game, there are reasons for it. The reason tonight was that too many players were below their usual performance,” US coach Klinsmann on the loss in Honduras, the fourth straight road qualifier in which the Americans have surrendered a lead.
CONCACAF fourth round ‘Hexagonal,’ matchday one
Honduras 2-1 USA
Panama 2-2 Costa Rica
Mexico 0-0 Jamaica
22 March 2013