Matchday 3 of Round Four on CONCACAF’s long road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ sees pitch-perfect Mexico travel to Canada hoping to keep up their 100 per cent record. USA head out on the road for a tough test in Guatemala while Jamaica take on Costa Rica, with two wins from two games so far, in Kingston in a Group B barn-burner. FIFA.com looks ahead to all the action in what promises to be a hot Friday night in the New World.
The big game
*The *Reggae Boyz had a summer to remember, beating regional giants USA to reach their first final of a CONCACAF Gold Cup. But their start to qualifying for Russia 2018 hasn’t been quite the same spectacle. They needed last-minute heroics against Nicaragua in the prior round to avoid an early exit. And they started their Group B campaign with a loss at home to Panama. Now they face an even tougher test when section-toppers Costa Rica come to Kingston. The Ticos caused a sensation at Brazil 2014 by reaching the quarter-finals and they’ve yet to stumble in group play, topping the section with six points. A win for Jamaica would tangle them at the top and get the Boyz back on the right rhythm. Winfried Schaefer has called in heavyweights like Wes Morgan, Giles Barnes, Adrian Mariappa and Jobi McAnuff. The football-mad island nation will be hoping it’s enough to contend with Costa Rica’s star line-up which includes Arsenal striker Joel Campbell, Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas, schemer Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges, recently back from injury.
The Group A game to watch sees second-place Canada welcome regional giants and high-flying section leaders Mexico. A huge crowd is expected in Vancouver as Canada, under Benito Floro, rely on a balanced squad of old veterans like Atiba Hutchinson and Julian de Guzman, and a handful of young guns. The other game in the group pits third-place El Salvador at home against Honduras, who have yet to earn a single point under former Costa Rica boss Jorge Luis Pinto.
Aside from the Jamaica-Costa Rica contest, Group B boasts a clash between bottom side Haiti – who qualified for this year’s Copa America Centenario and made a huge jump in the world ranking, and Panama, tied with Jamaica in second spot.
Over in Group C, Guatemala host a USA side who lead the section with four points from two games. Trinidad and Tobago, even with the Americans on points, head to whipping boys St. Vincent and the Grenadines gunning for nothing less than three points.
Player to Watch
*Wes Morgan (Jamaica)
*A man who’s spent most of his career in England’s second tier, the Jamaica captain and is suddenly smack-dab in the middle of world football’s biggest story. As skipper of Leicester City, currently the team to beat in the race for the English Premier League title, the big man with an uncommonly soft voice will bring that international buzz with him to Kingston. A committed defender, always willing to throw himself into a tackle or in front of a hard-hit shot, Morgan is Jamaica’s spiritual leader. “You can’t overestimate what it means to have a player like this pull on a Jamaica jersey,” coach Schaefer said. “It means so much to the team, to the country, to the people.”
*Did you know?
*Two of Canada’s attackers, Tesho Akindele and Cyle Larin, won back-to-back Rookie of the Year honours in Major League Soccer (MLS). Akindele, who could have played for Canada, USA or Nigeria, scooped the prize two years ago with FC Dallas. Larin, currently learning the finer points of the beautiful game alongside Kaka at Orlando City, won out last term. “It says Canada in moving in the right direction,” Akindele remarked about the country’s seemingly bright future.
What they said
*“If you don’t keep the ball there, then that means you’re going to be chasing it. That’s a day that can get real long real fast in a place as hot as Vietnam.” *USA international Lee Nguyen talks about what he learned playing in the Vietnamese top flight. The New England Revolution playmaker, who had a stretch of seven years out of the national team, was called in for the two games against Guatemala by Jurgen Klinsmann.
*(Round Four, Matchday 3)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines-Trinidad and Tobago