- Mexico increase lead in the Hexagonal standings after Honduras win
- Costa Rica stay second after goalless draw with Panama
- USA up to third after victory over Trinidad and Tobago
THE DAY REPLAYED – Mexico extended their lead at the top of the Hexagonal standings to five points after a convincing 3-0 home win over Honduras in CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ on Thursday evening.
Costa Rica remain in second place, despite only taking a point at home following a goalless draw with central American rivals Panama. USA moved into the automatic qualification places for Russia 2018 after a crucial 2-0 win at home to bottom side Trinidad and Tobago.
FIFA.com takes a closer look at all the action from Matchday 5, as the fifth and final round of CONCACAF qualifying reaches the halfway stage.
Match of the day
It is a big summer ahead for Mexico, with El Tri following this month’s World Cup qualifiers with a trip to Russia to participate in the FIFA Confederations Cup before returning to their home region to play in next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. They made sure they got their busy schedule off to a positive start with a strong, professional performance in defeating Honduras at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
El Tri’s winner came just before half-time through an Oswaldo Alanis header from a Mexico corner. The home side then sealed all three points in three second-half minutes, starting with substitute Hirving Lozano’s strike shortly after the hour mark before Raul Jimenez put the game beyond Honduras with a third goal. Defeat for the central Americans leaves them in fifth place in the Hexagonal standings.
Bruce Arena’s faith in again giving talented teenager Christian Pulisic a chance to make his mark in the USA starting line-up paid off in Commerce City, Colorado, as the Borussia Dortmund midfielder’s brace earned the Stars and Stripes a crucial home win over Trinidad and Tobago. Coming in a 10-minute span early in the second half, Pulisic claimed USA’s winner by tapping home a low DeAndre Yedlin cross before scoring a fine second goal from a well-worked move in the Soca Warriors’ half. It erased a disappointing opening half that saw Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones create the best chance before the break with a close-range header that struck the crossbar. The result leaves the Caribbean nation rooted to the bottom of the Hexagonal standings.
Meanwhile, in San Jose, Costa Rica could not make the most of their intimidating confines at the Estadio Nacional, as they had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Panama. Los Ticos were hoping to keep pace with leaders Mexico by claiming maximum points in the first of their two home qualifiers this month, but after defender Giancarlo Gonzalez was sent off shortly after the break, they had to ultimately settle for a share of the spoils with their central American rivals. The draw for Panama sees them drop out of the automatic qualification places to fourth in the Hexagonal standings.
The number 4 – The number of clean sheets that Mexico has recorded in their last four matches in the Hexagonal. In fact, El Tri have only conceded one goal in their first five contests of this final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Player of the day
Christian Pulisic (USA)
Needing a spark after a poor first-half display by the Stars and Stripes, Christian Pulisic stepped up to lead USA to three vital points in Colorado. His second-half brace not only eased tensions among home supporters at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, it further underlined the growing potential that the 18-year-old has as a player, having made the most of a productive season in Germany with his club Borussia Dortmund.
Did you know?
Going into Thursday’s qualifier with Trinidad and Tobago, Clint Dempsey was one goal away from equalling Landon Donovan’s all-time record of 57 goals as a USA international. That quest will now take him to Mexico City this weekend after the Seattle Sounders forward was unable to find the scoresheet against Trinidad and Tobago before being substituted on 61 minutes.
What they said
"These games are tough. And to walk away with three points and two goals, we've started off 2017 in pretty good shape. I'm pleased at this point." USA coach Bruce Arena speaking after his side’s 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
Up Next (Round Five, Matchday 6)
Costa Rica-Trinidad and Tobago