THE DAY REPLAYED - Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Panama all booked their places in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. With only two places now remaining in the last-six, Tuesday’s final matchday of the semi-final round should provide some mouth-watering drama. Continental heavyweights USA and Honduras have still yet to officially stamp their tickets while Jamaica, El Salvador and Haiti join the growing list of eliminated nations. FIFA.com wraps up all the Friday night action from the New World.
Match of the day
Honduras 2:1 Canada*
Manjrekar James 35, Mario Martinez 45+2, Romell Quioto 50
*This replay of the 2012 contest that saw Honduras demolish Canada 8-1 was a much tighter affair. The Canadians came out with something to prove, opening the scoring with a towering header from Manjrekar James - his first goal in a Canada jersey. The Hondurans, however, weren’t ready to lay down in this Group A affair. They sent the home fans in stifling San Pedro Sula into hysterics with a sizzling equalizer from distance off the left foot of Mario Martinez. Romell Quioto then sealed victory when he poked home from close-range after a glorious cross from Alberth Elis. Canada are now in third place with hopes of reaching the next round fading fast. They face a must-win home test against El Salvador, while Honduras meet Mexico needing only a draw (or even a narrow loss) to confirm their place in the final Hexagonal round.
*The other game in the section saw El Salvador eliminated when already qualified Mexico roared back from a one-goal deficit to win the day 3-1 and keep their perfect record intact.
Costa Rica booked their place in the final round with a 1-0 win on the road in Port-Au-Prince against a Haitian side that, despite showing spirit, are now officially out. Randall Azofeifa scored the only goal of the game with a ferocious strike mid-way through the second- half to guarantee Los *Ticos *their passage from Group B.
In the section’s other game, Panama guaranteed their place as well, beating Jamaica 2-0 to send the Reggae Boyz out of the running just a year on from finishing second at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Evergreen striker Carlos Ruiz scored the first and last goal of a topsy-turvy game in Port of Spain where Guatemala kept themselves alive in Group C thanks a 2-2 draw with Trinidad and Tobago. USA had an easy day on the road in the Lesser Antilles, hammering St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-0 with minimum effort in the group’s other game.
Tuesday is shaping up to be a mouthwatering finale for the section with USA, on 10 points, hosting already qualified Trinidad and Tobago (11). Guatemala (7) take on eliminated and defensively leaky St. Vincent with a slim hope of pipping the Americans to second place.
Player of the day
Carlos Ruiz (GUA)
*Known once as the Little Fish, Carlos Ruiz – Guatemala’s all-time top scorer and captain – continues to give credence to the old saying: 'You’re only as old as you feel'.* The Municipal striker, a ripe old 36 years of age, must be feeling just fine as he netted his second and third goals in the Russia 2018 qualifying campaign. He may be a little softer around the middle and slower off the mark, but the former LA Galaxy star still knows where the goal is. Ruiz’s 63 goals make him the top global scorer among active national team players, in front of even Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.*
25 *- The number of goals conceded by St. Vincent and the Grenadines in their five semi-final round games – an average of five per game. The upstart islanders have one more chance to earn their first point of the campaign, and add to their modest three goals scored, when they travel to Guatemala for their final qualifier next week.
Did you know?
*USA and New York Red Bulls playmaker Sacha Kljestan thought the text message he received calling him into the national team camp was a prank. Having not been brought into the *Stars and Stripes for over two years, the silky former Anderlecht creator was understandably suspicious: “I thought it was one of my friends having a joke with me,” he said. But it was no joke when coach Jurgen Klinsmann called a few minutes later to welcome him to the squad. Kljestan rewarded the boss’s faith with his first goal since 2010 and a pair of assists.
What they said
*“There’s a big part of me that wishes I could have been there for that huge moment in my life, but there’s another part of me that was happy to be playing for my country.” Matt Besler's first goal in a USA jersey wasn’t even the biggest thing that happened to him on the day. Hours before kicking off in St. Vincent, the defender’s wife gave birth to a baby girl. *
* Results (Round Four, Matchday 5)
Honduras 2-1 Canada
El Salvador 1-3 Mexico
Haiti 0-1 Costa Rica
Panama 2-0 Jamaica
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 0-6 USA
Trinidad and Tobago 2-2 Guatemala
Tuesday 6 September
Guatemala-St. Vincent and the Grenadines
USA-Trinidad and Tobago