THE DAY REPLAYED - Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA shot to the top of the CONCACAF qualifying Hexagonal for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with a spirited win over Panama in Seattle. Mexico failed to find similar home comforts as they slumped to a goalless draw against Costa Rica that leaves the two sides two points off the leading Americans. Honduras climbed into fourth with a win over Jamaica, whose Brazil 2014 dream is fading into the realm of fantasy.
The big game
Mexico 0-0 Costa Rica
Regional giants Mexico continue to misfire in Brazil 2014 qualifying, drawing once again at their spiritual home that is the Azteca. Despite boasting some of the best attacking talent in CONCACAF, like Javier Chicharito Hernandez and Andres Guardado, the Mexicans lacked a spark. Visiting Costa Rica, led by captain-playmaker Brian Ruiz and a spine of steely defenders, created the better chances, and once again Mexican goalkeeper Jesus Corona was El Tri’s only real standout. His acrobatic save on Joel Campbell in the 37th minute, and then again early in the second half, kept the hosts from suffering an even bigger humiliation on home soil. That said, the 70,000-plus fans in attendance were not pleased. The boos and jeers that greeted the final whistle will ring in the Mexican players’ ears as they board their late-night flight for Rio, where they fly the standard for CONCACAF at the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup.
In other action
Honduras got their campaign back on track with a simple 2-0 win against bottom side Jamaica. USA-based Oscar Boniek Garcia struck from close range for the home side in Tegucigalpa after ten minutes, before being stretchered off with an injury later in the half. The Jamaicans, who have scored twice in their six games, were never really in the contest, and it was no surprise when Roger Rojas made it 2-0 seconds before the end.
USA catapulted to top of the Hexagonal with a 2-0 win over Panama in Seattle. Jozy Altidore, in a rich vein of form, opened the scoring after a flowing move mid-way through the first half. Eddie Johnson, who plays for local MLS side Seattle Sounders, then doubled the dose after the break, getting on the end of a through-ball from midfield deputy Geoff Cameron to slot home to a roar from a familiar crowd. The result sees Panama, who topped the table only a few weeks ago, slump to second-bottom.
Player of the day – Joel Campbell (CRC)
While Costa Rica’s draw at Azteca was down to a stifling collective effort in defence, the lone Tico striker was a revelation at the other end. His pace and eager running kept the Mexican defence off balance, and he brought about the best chances of the game, hitting the woodwork early and being denied on several occasions only by the heroics of net-minder Corona. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may well call the 20-year-old sensation back to London from his loan stint at Betis if he keeps up this kind of impressive form.
Goal of the day – Jozy Altidore (USA)
The days when Jozy Altidore had trouble finding the back of the net for USA are officially over. His strike in the 36th minute against Panama was his third goal in as many matches for the national team – and what a goal it was. AS Roma’s Michael Bradley stormed through midfield, laying the ball out wide for Fabian Johnson, who crossed low and hard through the box. Clint Dempsey drew his man to the near post and up popped the man of the hour, AZ Alkmaar top-scorer Altidore, to tap home with a flourish at the back post.
0 – the number of goals and wins Mexico have earned in their three home qualifiers. The much-feared Estadio Azteca, with its noisy, steep terraces and high altitude, seems to have lost its mystical ability to propel El Tri to victory. They have only ever lost one qualifier at the ground, in 2001 to Costa Rica, but their goalless draw with those same Ticos means the Mexicans, 14-time FIFA World Cup participants, have now gone over 250 minutes without a goal at home. They have only two more games at the Azteca in the Brazil 2014 Hexagonal, and the pressure is firmly on coach José Manuel Chepo de la Torre and his men in a region where wins at home are crucial.
What they said
“The crowd was unbelievable tonight, and that made a huge difference. This is the best crowd I’ve ever experienced playing in the USA. Our hat goes off to the fans tonight.” USA midfielder Bradley salutes the spirit in Seattle, Washington, where over 40,000 fans came out to see the first FIFA World Cup qualifier in the city for 37 years.