Costa Rica surged to the top of the CONCACAF qualifying Hexagonal for the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014™ with an impressive win over former leaders USA in San Jose. Mexico’s dreadful form continued as the regional giants lost only the second qualifier in their history at the Estadio Azteca, 2-1 to Honduras, who move up to third place. Jamaica and Panama drew 0-0 and remain in last and fifth respectively with three matchdays to go.
Join FIFA.com for a recap of a wild Friday night in the CONCACAF zone.
The big game
Mexico 1-2 Honduras
It all started so well for Mexico. The fans seemed to have forgiven coach Jose Manuel Chepo de la Torre and his team for previous poor form. Oribe Peralta’s goal from close range in the sixth minute was met with a roar of approval from the steep terracing of Azteca. It was Mexico’s first goal in four games at their normally fortress-like home, but they failed to hang on. The dream start gave way to the stuff of nightmares. Honduran coach Luis Fernando Suarez brought on second striker Jerry Bengtson at the interval and the Mexicans, failing to adjust, fell further and further back into a callow defensive shell. Bengtson banged in an equaliser in the 64th minute, reacting quickly to a fumble from Mexican keeper Jesus Corona. Two minutes later, Carlo Costly added the knockout blow, flying past the flat-footed Angel Reyna before stabbing home. There it stayed to the end, as the Hondurans picked up their first win away from home in the Hexagonal. It was also the Catrachos’ first-ever win at Azteca.
In other action
Costa Rica knocked USA off their perch at the top of the Hexagonal with a comprehensive 3-1 win in San Jose. Johnny Acosta opened the scoring early, rising above DaMarcus Beasley to head home a corner-kick. Minutes later, the outstanding Celso Borges headed home from virtually the same spot. The Americans suffered without midfield stalwart Michael Bradley, who injured his ankle in the warm-up, but they still managed to pull one back before the break. Clint Dempsey’s successful penalty-kick, his eighth goal in qualifying, wasn’t quite enough of a spark to overturn a passionate and motivated Tico side. Young attacking phenom Joel Campbell rounded out the scoring with a quarter-hour left.
Even with a new coach in the dugout, Jamaica couldn’t find the net on the road in Panama. Fortunately for the Reggae Boyz, now coached by former Cameroon boss Winfried Schaefer, the host Canaleros weren’t in the mood for goals either. The Jamaicans have scored only once in their seven games, but a point from this desultory draw sees them bring their tally up to three, not enough to see them off last place, but enough to keep them mathematically alive with three games to go. Panama remain in fifth with 7 points, just one behind Mexico.
Player of the day – Brian Ruiz (Costa Rica)
The last time Costa Rica faced the US was in a February snowstorm in Denver. Brian Ruiz was unable to fully display his silky passing skills and creator’s vision with the ball held up in waves of wet, icy mess. The rematch in San Jose on Friday was a different story entirely, with Ruiz, of English Premier League side Fulham, dictating the patterns in midfield. Every Tico attack went through him and his every touch of the ball was met with an ovation from the swooning home fans.
Goal of the day – Oribe Peralta (MEX)
Six minutes into Mexico’s eventual loss to Honduras, Oribe Peralta, scorer of five goals in six games for club side Santos Laguna, played a sumptuous back-heel in midfield for Gio dos Santos. The jet-heeled Villarreal man raced in behind the Honduran rearguard, held the ball up, and laid in a low cross for Peralta, who recognised the opportunity and continued his run. He put his body on the line too, sliding the ball home a split-second before slamming into Catrachos’ keeper Noel Valladares. It was Mexico’s first goal in four home games during the Brazil 2014 Hexagonal, but it failed to matter much in the end.
2 – The number of losses Mexico have suffered at their Estadio Azteca in 77 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. The two Honduran goals on the night, scored in the space of three second-half minutes, were the first scored by the Catrachos on the road in the Hexagonal. With only one home game to go, against Panama, the Mexicans are still looking for their first win at Azteca.
What they said
“This is a totally useless victory if we don’t make it to the World Cup in Brazil. The Mexicans started well tonight, but in the end, we were better than they were.” It’s hard to argue with either of the points made by coach Suarez after Honduras’ historic win at Azteca.
CONCACAF final round Hexagonal, matchday 7
Costa Rica 3-1 USA
Mexico 1-2 Honduras
Panama 0-0 Jamaica