Ticos eye qualification as USA, Panama scrap for third

  • Costa Rica can qualify for Russia 2018 by beating Mexico 

  • Honduras and USA in battle for third

  • Panama need three points against Trinidad and Tobago to keep pace

All eyes will be on San Pedro Sula when Honduras host USA, as both teams find themselves mid-table and in search of gaining a foothold on one of the automatic qualification slots in CONCACAF 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying.

Elsewhere, Panama host Trinidad and Tobago, as Los Canaleros will be after three important points in order to keep pace with Honduras and USA. After sealing qualification to Russia 2018 last matchday, Mexico travel to Costa Rica with Los Ticos knowing that a win will be enough to see them join El Tri at Russia 2018.

The match  *Honduras-USA, San Pedro Sula *The opening game of Matchday 8 in the Hexagonal is arguably the biggest, as Honduras host USA in an encounter that could have major implications to both nation's Russia 2018 qualification chances. Honduras are coming off an important 2-1 win in Trinidad and Tobago. Jorge Luis Pinto's side will be doing everything they can to avenge their 6-0 defeat by USA back in March. If they can replicate their performance in Couva, where they scored two early goals, it will go a long way in bringing them their first win against USA in World Cup qualifying since 6 February 2013.

For the USA's part, they must overcome the disappointment of defeat by Costa Rica, and the fact they were outscored and outplayed by Los Ticos 6-0 over two matches against them, and respond with a much more convincing display against Los Catrachos to get their campaign back on track. Stars and Stripes coach Bruce Arena gave an honest assessment of his side's performance in New Jersey: "You hate to look at one game and not look at the whole. Tonight was not our night. We didn’t play well, and we still have three games left in the competition. We’re still in position to qualify for the World Cup."

The other attractions  Costa Rica head into their home match against Mexico in San Jose with a lot of confidence coming off their first victory on American soil in 32 years. Marco Urena scored a brace in that match and showed coach Oscar Ramirez that he can be relied on for big matches.

A win for Costa Rica would mean they are through to Russia 2018 and would ensure a second consecutive involvement in the world finals. For Mexico, coach Juan Carlos Osorio will have the luxury of possibly experimenting with his squad rotation to evaluate different players, as El Tri became the first team out of the region to qualify for the World Cup last matchday.

Panama gave Osorio's side a tough match and will have plenty of positives to take out of their performance at Estadio Azteca. Anything but a win against bottom side Trinidad and Tobago would be considered a failure, though, as Los Canaleros cannot afford to fall away from Honduras and USA in the table.

Player to watch Costa Rica forward Marco Urena has quietly been going about his business the last few years, and now appears to be ready for the spotlight for Los Ticos. Urena has scored four goals in 18 starts for Major League Soccer club San Jose Earthquakes this season and will be hoping to add to his goal tally for his nation, as they look to repeat their 2-1 home result against Mexico during the last World Cup qualifying cycle.

What they said  "Now the approach is we’re going to go down there with the mentality to win the game. We’re going to be aggressive and make sure we have 11 guys on the field who are ready to give everything. And we will. If at the end of 90 minutes, we’re in a position where we take one point, then we’ll take that, and then everything is still in our own hands the last two games. We’ve got three games to play like our lives depend on it." USA captain Michael Bradley

Matchday 8 fixtures  *5 September *Honduras-USA Panama-Trinidad and Tobago Costa Rica-Mexico