THE DAY REPLAYED – Panama shocked the CONCACAF zone by surging to the top of the Hexagonal standings with a 2-0 win over previously unbeaten Honduras. USA displayed their storied grit and determination for a second game running to pick up only their second qualifying point ever on the road in Mexico, while Costa Rica came to life with a 2-0 win over Jamaica in San Jose.
FIFA.com wraps up all the action from a tension-packed Matchday 3 in the CONCACAF qualifying Hexagonal for Brazil 2014.
The big game
Mexico 0-0 USA
It was no clasico for the ages, but USA’s 0-0 draw on the road at the Azteca is still historic. Only once previously (in 1997) had the Stars and Stripes avoided defeat against their arch-rivals on that hallowed ground, and this result will go a long way to building confidence in an American team that lost their opener. US coach Jurgen Klinsmann started with the untested central-defensive pairing of domestic-based Matt Besler, earning only his second cap, and Omar Gonzalez. Both men put in stoic, if not heroic, performances to keep the scoresheet clean against the likes of El Tri sharpshooters Javier Chicharito Hernandez, Gio dos Santos and Andres Guardado. The Mexicans had 15 corner-kicks on the night and most of the possession, but the Americans – and their stand-in goalkeeper Brad Guzan – stood firm. It is the second straight goalless draw at home for CONCACAF and Olympic champions Mexico, who have yet to win in the Hexagonal, and it will put heavy pressure on coach Jose Manuel Chepo de la Torre.
In other action
Honduras went into Matchday 3 in Panama City as the team to beat after drawing with Mexico and beating USA. But both of those games were at home, and playing on the road in CONCACAF is no small matter. Panama took the lead in the second minute when veteran striker Luis Tejada raced in to poke home from close range. The Catrachos, stunned into response, pressed and pressed at the other end, hitting the woodwork and creating a handful of decent chances. But the fast-moving and much-improved Panamanians proved they aren’t to be taken likely by sealing a 2-0 win – their first of the round – through Blas Perez in the 75th minute. The result keeps Panama’s unbeaten streak in the Hexagonal alive and puts them in rarefied air at the top of the table.
Costa Rica picked up their first win of the campaign, also at home, by beating Jamaica 2-0. Michael Umana opened the scoring in San Jose when he wriggled in close and side-footed past Jamaican keeper Donovan Ricketts after 22 minutes. The Reggae Boyz put on all the early pressure, but the Ticos – in their first home game of the Hexagonal – were clinical with their finishing. Second-half substitute Diego Calvo grabbed the winner eight minutes from time when he dribbled to the goal-line, cut back inside and curled the ball into the top corner from a tight angle.
Player of the day – Keilor Navas (CRC)
Costa Rica have their 26-year-old goalkeeper to thank for their 2-0 win over Jamaica, a result that saw the Ticos catapult from rock-bottom to a three-way tie for second place. The Levante net-minder was at his athletic and acrobatic best, plucking dangerous crosses off the heads of towering Jamaicans and diving low and high to keep shots from Jobi McAnuff, Luton Shelton and Jermaine Beckford from nestling in the back of his net.
Goal of the day – Blas Perez (PAN)
Fans at Panama City’s Estadio Rommel Fernandez finally breathed a sigh of relief 15 minutes before the end of a contentious clash with Honduras, when lively midfield substitute Nelson Barahona curled a through-ball up to old reliable striker Blas Perez. The MLS-based ace made no mistake to seal the 2-0 victory, hammering home with the laces of his right boot before wheeling off to celebrate wildly while donning a wide-brimmed Panama hat he nabbed off a touchline reporter.
5 - The number of points picked up by unbeaten Panama after three matches in the Hexagonal, three more than they earned in all ten of their games last time they reached CONCACAF’s final round. In the qualifiers for Germany 2006, Panama finished dead last in the ‘Hex,’ conceding 21 goals and scoring four.
What they said
“We came to win here in Mexico, but we are satisfied with the result. Our game-plan was simple: we wanted to squeeze the midfield and force Mexico to keep the ball up off the ground. When they started trying the aerial attack, we knew we were in good shape,” USA coach Klinsmann talks about how his side picked up an historic point at the Azteca.
CONCACAF fourth round Hexagonal matchday three
26 March 2013
Costa Rica 2-0 Jamaica
Panama 2-0 Honduras
Mexico 0-0 USA
4 June 2013
7 June 2013