Mexico hit the front early in Concacaf race

10 Sep 2021
  • Eight-team final phase has begun in the Concacaf Zone

  • Mexico the early leaders

  • Three teams hot on their heels

The final phase of the Concacaf qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ is under way, with eight teams chasing three automatic places and an intercontinental play-off spot. And judging by the opening three matchdays, the battle for qualification is going to be intense. Mexico are out front on seven points, with Canada, USA and Panama tucked in just behind them on five. FIFA.com picks out the highlights from the opening matches in the Concacaf Zone’s race to Qatar 2022.

Mexico up to the test

El Tri have not had it easy in moving to the top of the table and needed to dig deep to earn their two wins and a draw. Their opening match, a 2-1 victory at home to Jamaica, was a case in point, with the Mexicans only securing the points courtesy of Henry Martin’s 89th-minute winner. They followed that up by taking four points out of six on the road. After edging out Costa Rica 1-0 in San Jose, Mexico came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw away to Panama, thanks in no small part to a second-half tactical reset.

Consistent Canada

Canada lie second. The Canucks play a fast game these days and their young squad is firing the dreams of the fans, who are anxious to see their side back on the World Cup stage.

Still only 21, front man Jonathan David has staked his claim to a regular starting place and made a valuable goalscoring contribution to the 3-0 defeat of El Salvador on Wednesday. Possessing more experience than his partner, Cyle Larin is another quality performer in the Canadian front line and contributed two goals in his side’s opening three matches.

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 08:  Tajon Buchanan #11 of Canada celebrates with Jonathan David #20 after scoring a goal during a 2022 World Cup Qualifying match against El Salvador at BMO Field on September 8, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

USA and Panama on the up

Both sides kicked off with goalless draws, with Panama then cruising to an emphatic 3-0 win in Jamaica, while USA secured a vital point in El Salvador. The two teams saved their best football for Matchday 3, when Panama had Mexico against the ropes with their fast, attacking brand of football, and USA romped to a 4-1 win over Honduras. Eighteen-year-old debutant Ricardo Pepi was the star of the American show, scoring one goal and setting up two.

Elsewhere

Yet to score a goal in the final phase, El Salvador nevertheless have two precious points to their name, an indication of their defensive strength. La Selecta’s problems lie at the other end of the pitch, where they have been able to create chances, without managing to put any of them away. Honduras, Costa Rica and Jamaica – the other occupants of the bottom four – have all had their moments. The table does not lie, however, and all have suffered lapses in concentration that have left them with lots to do.

Costa Rica's Jimmy Marin (R) celebrates after scoring against Jamaica during their Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup Concacaf qualifier match at the National Stadium in San Jose, on September 8 2021. (Photo by Ezequiel BECERRA / AFP) (Photo by EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images)

The stats

10 - the number of World Cup qualifying matches Panama have now gone unbeaten, an impressive run made up of six wins and four draws. 1 - Jamaica picked up their first-ever World Cup qualifying point in Costa Rica, having lost on all seven of their previous visits to the country. 10 - the number of goals Canada’s Cyle Larin has scored in his country’s last ten qualifying matches.

Jamaica's Shamar Nicholson celebrates after scoring against Costa Rica during their Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup Concacaf qualifier match at the National Stadium in San Jose, on September 8, 2021. (Photo by Ezequiel BECERRA / AFP) (Photo by EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images)

What they said

“The qualifiers are always tough and going to play in Central America is not easy. If you’d offered us seven points out of nine at the start, we’d have taken it.” Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa