The group phase of the CONCACAF qualifying competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ began on Wednesday with the three regional superpowers all earning narrow wins. Mexico were grateful for Pavel Pardo's two goals as they edged past the dangerous Hondurans 2-1, while their big rivals across the border made the most of their set piece prowess to win 1-0 in Guatemala.
The third member of the triumvirate, Costa Rica, picked up a valuable 1-0 victory of their own in a hazardous meeting with neighbours El Salvador. That result allowed the Ticos to move top of Group C and gave new coach Rodrigo Kenton the perfect start in his first official match.
Here to round up all the day's games is FIFA.com.
Match of the dayMexico 2-1 Honduras
Goals: Pavel Pardo 73, 75 (Mexico); Julio Cesar Leon 36 (Honduras)
The tension was palpable at the Estadio Azteca as a highly motivated Honduras side boasting some of the finest players the country has ever produced came in search of an historic win. And they almost pulled it off, taking the lead thanks to a wonderful free-kick from Julio Cesar Leon.
The visitors spurned several chances to make the game safe, though, and urged on by a crowd of 114,000, Mexico eventually turned the match around thanks to Pavel Pardo's prodigious right foot. In the space of two second-half minutes the Stuttgart veteran found the back of the net twice with long-range efforts to give Swedish coach Sven Goran Eriksson a nervy but ultimately successful start to his Tricolor tenure.
Surprise of the day
Canada 1-1 Jamaica
Goals: Julian de Guzman 47 (Canada); Pat Onstad 52 og (Jamaica)
On a day of close calls rather than surprises, perhaps the biggest shock was the commendable point Rene Simoes's side earned in Toronto. With the inspired Julian de Guzman directing operations, the Canucks pressed hard for the opener, which eventually came courtesy of the Deportivo La Coruna midfielder's opportunistic finish. The Jamaicans hit back when keeper Pat Onstad flapped a corner kick into the back of the net and although the hosts poured forward in numbers, the game finished with honours even.
Player of the dayPavel Pardo, *Mexico midfielder*
The 32-year-old showed once again why he is a permanent fixture in the Mexico line-up. Pardo showcased his ball-winning and distribution skills in a tireless performance in the midfield, and put his magical right foot to use to conjure up an unlikely victory in the closing stages. A raking drive got the Mexicans back on level terms with 17 minutes remaining and just 120 seconds later Parvo's curling free-kick from wide on the left crept just inside the post to spark off joyous scenes at a packed Azteca.
Cuba's 3-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago in Havana has given coach Reinhold Fanz plenty to ponder. After picking up some fine results in a 15-match tour of Germany, the Cubans were expected to provide further evidence of their progress against the Germany 2006 finalists. But despite the absences of Dwight Yorke and Stern John, T&T had too much power up front, leaving Fanz and his side with much to do if they are to move into contention in Group A.
Honduras and Guatemala could be excused for kicking themselves after letting the region's two dominant sides escape with wins. Even so, for the Catrachos there was no shame in losing to Mexico at their Azteca fortress. If anything, the Chapines have greater cause for regret. Despite dominating their American visitors throughout and having a one-man advantage, the Guatemalans had no answer to Carlos Bocanegra's second-half header.
El Salvador acquitted themselves well in Costa Rica and gave the home side a fright in a promising performance. Suriname and Haiti can also accentuate the positive after a draw that keeps their Group C options intact. The same cannot be said of Canada, who let two priceless points slip at home and now entertain the Hondurans in a match they simply cannot afford to lose.
The numbers game 0 - The number of times USA have lost to Guatemala in FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. The sides first met in 1990 with the Stars and Stripes winning five of the nine games between the two, including Wednesday's meeting, and drawing the other four.
What they said
"We knew that Mexico would try to make use of their home advantage. We started to lose the match when we had good counter-attacks to kill the game off but couldn't score. Honduras was in control of the match even at 1-1 but after their second goal we lacked the mental awareness to overcome the deficit," Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda.
The second round of games will be played on 6 September. In Group A, Trinidad and Tobago will aim to take another step towards qualification when they meet Guatemala in Port of Spain, with USA looking to do the same against Cuba in Havana. Mexico, the early leaders in Group B, face a dangerous trip to Jamaica, while Canada play host to Honduras in Montreal. In the third section Costa Rica play at home again, this time against Suriname, with Haiti taking a trip to El Salvador.
Wednesday 20 August
*Cuba 1-3 Trinidad and Tobago
Guatemala 0-1 United States
Canada 1-1 Jamaica
Mexico 2-1 Honduras
Costa Rica 1-0 El Salvador
Haiti 2-2 Suriname
Trinidad and Tobago, 3 pts (GD +2)
United States, 3 (+1)
Guatemala, 0 (-1)
Cuba, 0 (-2)
*Mexico, 3 (+1)
Jamaica, 1 (0)
Canada, 1 (0)
Honduras, 0 (-1)
*Costa Rica, 3 (+1)
Suriname, 1 (0)
Haiti, 1 (0)
El Salvador, 0 (-1)