There will be a desperate chase on for third-place in the final matchday of CONCACAF’s qualifying Hexagonal. Mexico and Honduras are both in with a shout of claiming the third and last direct spot, and joining USA and Costa Rica as CONCACAF representatives at next year’s FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. The Hondurans have their destiny in their own hands, while Mexico, currently in fourth, don’t. The fourth place finisher, who could end up being Mexico, Honduras or even Panama, faces an intercontinental play-off with New Zealand in November, while fifth joins Jamaica in the what-might-have-been club.
FIFA.com takes a look ahead to Tuesday’s final matchday of a drama-filled Hexagonal.
The big game
Despite finally winning at their Estadio Azteca last week and in some dramatic fashion 2-1 against Panama, Mexico still don’t control their own destiny. Victor Manuel Vucetich’s nervy crew is currently in fourth-place of the six-team section, three points behind Honduras. A win against the already qualified Ticos in San Jose could see El Tri slip into the third and final direct qualifying spot if Honduras, who haven’t lost in their last three games, fall to bottom side Jamaica in Kingston. That, however, is the rosiest possible outcome for the Mexicans, who could still finish in fifth, seeing them miss out on the World Cup for the first time since Italy 1990. With one game to go and nothing yet guaranteed, all Mexico can do to help their cause is build on their win from last week and get a result on the road at Costa Rica’s Estadio Nacional, a stadium where the Ticos have a perfect record in the Hex and enjoy passionate support. Whether recently returned captain Rafa Marquez and scoreless Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and co deliver the goods with everything on the line remains to be seen.
Honduras picked up a crucial win in San Pedro Sula last week against neighbours Costa Rica, a result that sees the Catrachos keep their destiny in their own hands. A win or draw (or even a slim loss) in Kingston against a Jamaica side playing only for pride would seal the third and final qualifying spot from the region (USA and Costa Rica have the other two sewn up). The fast-paced, high-pressure midfield game purveyed by the likes of Wilson Palacios, Oscar Boniek Garcia and Roger Espinoza has made Honduras into a dynamic side, a challenge for even the biggest names in the region.
Already assured of first place, USA head to Panama to take on the Canaleros in a game that could still have profound influence on the final standings. The home side, currently in fifth place, need a win (and a Mexico loss) to have a chance at sneaking into the fourth-place play-off spot. Julio Dely Valdes’ side will also be bolstered by playing against a decidedly under-strength American outfit, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann experiments with fringe players. Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Landon Donovan will all be unavailable for the game at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, where Panama are undefeated through two rounds of qualifying.
What they’re saying
“I can’t imagine a bigger game than this one against Costa Rica. We have to go there, and we have to win. We can’t control all of the factors in the other games, but we must do what we can, and that is come away from San Jose with all three points.” Mexico’s 22-year-old starlet Raul Jimenez, of capital club giants America, sounds like an old pro who’s seen and done it all. That’s the kind of cool confidence that comes with scoring an overhead winner in the dying moments to beat Panama at Azteca, keeping El Tri’s qualifying hopes alive in the process.
CONCACAF final round Hexagonal, matchday 9
1. USA (19 points - Qualified)
2. Costa Rica (15 - Qualified)
3. Honduras (14)
4. Mexico (11)
5. Panama (8)
6 Jamaica (4 - Eliminated)
Have your say
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