*THE DAY REPLAYED – *
Mexico and USA kicked off their qualifying campaigns for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ with big wins at home. Elsewhere, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago managed wins away from home, a rare commodity in CONCACAF, while Costa Rica did just enough and Canada settled an old score with a win over Honduras. FIFA.com takes a closer look at Friday night’s action.
Match of the day*
Jamaica 0-2 Panama*
Armando Cooper 43, Alberto Quintero 52
Panama’s *Group B win over Jamaica in Kingston was no fluke. The Central Americans were in total control from the opening whistle, even without injured captain Roman Torres. They pressed in numbers against the *Reggae Boyz, who must have been expecting better after finishing runners-up at this summer’s Gold Cup. Armando Cooper’s opener was an audacious free-kick that has the Canaleros, the most improved team in the region over the last 15 years, dreaming again of a debut at the World Cup finals.
Mexico began their Group A journey under new coach Juan Carlos Osorio with a 3-0 win over El Salvador at a frosty Estadio Azteca. Andres Guardado, Mexico’s captain fantastic, got the goals rolling with a stunning free-kick from distance. Hector Herrera added another before the break and Carlos Vela made it three with a delicate chip as El Tri now breathe easy with their first qualifier in the books.
The late game in the group saw Canada atone for their 8-1 loss to Honduras in Brazil 2014 qualifying, with a 1-0 win in Vancouver. Will Johnson scored the only goal against the Catrachos, an ungainly header at the back post.
Costa Rica got the job done in their Group B curtain-raiser at home against Haiti. It was not the kind of stunning performance they rode to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Brazil two summers ago, but the *Ticos *got the job done with a 1-0 win, the lone goal coming from Cristian Gamboa.
The United States kicked off their Group C account with a 6-1 rout of Caribbean minnows St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Jurgen Klinsmann’s Star and Stripes suffered an early set-back, but it did not amount to much as they maintained virtually all of the possession, took 19 shots and scored six unanswered goals through Jozy Altidore (2) Fabian Johnson, Gyasi Zardes, Geoff Cameron and Bobby Wood.
The other game in the section didn’t have as much goalmouth pyrotechnics, but it did see Trinidad and Tobago start their campaign in style with a win away against Guatemala. Khaleem Hyland and veteran skipper Kenwyne Jones scored in the 2-1 win as the youthful Soca Warriors took all the points on offer.
Player of the day
Andres Guardado (Mexico)
Mexico’s skipper, hero from this summer’s championship run in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, was at it again at Azteca. His glorious free-kick from 30 yards after just seven minutes allowed the Mexicans to relax a bit. He spent the rest of the game, against an outmatched El Salvador, pushing up through midfield to start the attacks. He was, quite simply, El Tri’s beating heart on the night. **
The number – 2
No2 was conspicuous on Friday. Two teams – Trinidad and Tobago and Panama – won away from home. There were also two sensational goals scored directly from free-kicks. And, completing the hat-trick of twos, USA’s Bobby Wood became only the second American from the state of Hawaii to start for the Stars and Stripes – and, wouldn't you know it, he scored the second goal of the game.
Did you know?
St. Vincent and the Grenadines winger Oalex Anderson, just 20 years old, scored the first goal of the group stages. Cutting inside from the left after only five minutes, the youngest player on the pitch in St. Louis, slotted past USA No1 Brad Guzan to send the small pocket of island fans on hand into dreamland. The Americans soon found their footing and won easily, but SVG’s No10 looks like a star in the making, and he seemingly will not be in Seattle Sounders reserve team, coached by Vincentian legend Ezra Hendrickson, much longer.
What they said
“We believe in Jozy. In him we have a very special player. He’s going through ups and downs. You have to stay calm and work even harder.” *US coach Klinsmann on striker Altidore, who scored twice against SVG to break a poor run of form. *
Results (Round Four, Matchday 1)
Mexico 3-0 El Salvador
Canada 1-0 Honduras*
Costa Rica 1-0 Haiti
Jamaica 0-2 Panama*
USA 6-1 St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Guatemala 1-2 Trinidad and Tobago
Up next (Round Four, Matchday 2)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines-Guatemala
Trinidad & Tobago-USA