Canada the new leader on 16 points
Mexico drop to third
Panama still in contention after stirring comebacks
With maximum points from their two fixtures in the recent international break, Canada now find themselves leading the way in North, Central America and the Caribbean zone qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
After results contrived to bunch up the top half of the table, where only two points separate first from fourth, the conclusion of Concacaf qualifying in 2022 promises drama and emotion aplenty.
FIFA.com brings you the key takeaways from matchdays 7 and 8.
Friday 12 November
Tuesday 16 November
Canucks set the pace
Things could not have gone any better for Canada, as they laid down a marker with two impressive home wins to move clear of their rivals. They opened with a single-goal victory over Costa Rica before defeating previous front-runners Mexico 2-1. Those six points allowed them to take full advantage El Tri’s loss to USA last Friday and lead the way on 16 points. John Herdman’s side have pace, excellent ball control and a solid defence, as evidenced in the numerous scoring chances created in both games and their concession of just one goal.
Mexico with nothing to show
El Tri faced their most challenging double header of the octagonal, with away fixtures in the United States and Canada yielding zero points. Undefeated and setting the pace until that point, Mexico were undone by USA’s high pressing game, while in Edmonton they struggled with the freezing temperature and Canada’s effectiveness from set pieces. However, despite these setbacks, Gerardo Martino’s charges occupy third place, just a point behind USA in second and two behind leaders Canada.
USA miss a trick
Although their morale-boosting triumph at home to Mexico last Friday put the Stars and Stripes temporarily top of the eight-team group, they could only follow that up with a draw in Jamaica to cede top spot. In their duel with the Reggae Boyz, they hit the front with a goal from Timothy Weah on 11 minutes, only for Michail Antonio to level for the hosts 10 minutes later. 1-1 would be the final score.
Panama show grit
Another team who will take a lot of confidence from this double header are Panama, who picked up all six points on offer. Yet perhaps even more impressive was the manner in which they did it, showing great mental resilience and reactions when really up against it. In their first game away to Honduras, they found themselves 2-0 down with just 13 minutes remaining. Then Cecilio Waterman cut the deficit on 77 minutes, before Cesar Yanis levelled four minutes later. Finally, Erick Davis completed the comeback on 85 minutes to cap an amazing nine-minute spell. Against El Salvador, at home, Los Caneleros went behind in the opening minute but once again kept their composure. For the second game running, Waterman scored their opening goal with an equaliser on 50 minutes, before Freddy Gondola grabbed the winner a couple of minutes later.
Costa Rica, best of the rest
After succumbing to Canada last Friday, Los Ticos knew the vital importance of their home tie with Honduras yesterday. It proved to be an evenly matched affair, with Oscar Duarte putting the hosts in front on 20 minutes and Romell Quioto levelling for Los Catrachos 15 minutes later. It stayed that way until four minutes into added time, when Gerson Torres scored his first goal for Costa Rica to secure three priceless points and keep his side within sight of the leading quartet.
Did you know...?
Canada had not beaten Mexico in a World Cup qualifier since a 1-0 win on 10 October 1976. Since then, they have faced each other 16 times.
Honduras have now gone 10 international games without a victory.
Canada have extended their run of unbeaten World Cup qualifiers to 15.
El Salvador have lost just one of their last seven home games in World Cup qualifying.
"I like when we take the lead, but I also like to see the reaction and courage of my guys [when we go behind]. Given the patience and hunger we showed in the first half, I knew we still had a chance of a comeback. I just had to give them a little more confidence." Thomas Christiansen, Panama coach