Posted on September 12, 2012
By Michael Lewis
With four of the six semifinal games being played, the picture is much more clear in CONCACAF on Wednesday morning.
Mexico, with two games to spare, already has booked a spot in next year’s World Cup hexagonal round. But the other five places are still up for grabs.
The top two teams from each group will move on, the rest will worry about qualifying and preparing for next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Here’s a quick look at on the confederation’s dozen teams after Tuesday night’s action:
El Tri (4-0-0, 12 points) might not have played well in their 1-0 Group B home win over Costa Rica, but the main thing is they found a way to win, which is a lot more than I can say about some of the other teams that needed. With Costa Rica and El Salvador still battling it out for the second berth from the group, the Mexicans still can play an important role in determining which moves on because it hosts the Salvadorans in its final match at Azteca Stadium on Oct. 16. It will be intriguing to see if coach Jose Manuel de la Torre calls in all his first team players for the final phase of semifinal qualifying.
Panama (3-1-0, nine) is on the verge of gaining the confederation finals, needing a win over Honduras (home on Oct. 12) or over Cuba (away on Oct. 16). It would be surprising if the Panamanians don’t move on. I keep saying they have a talented, gritty and unique generation of players who find ways to win. If they don’t reach the World Cup now, they never will.
Sweating it out
Group A: United States, Guatemala, Jamaica
Group B: Costa Rica, El Salvador
Group C: Honduras, Canada
Seven teams fall into this middle ground and I’ll do it group by group.
Group A: The best race of the three groups. Three teams — the Americans, the Guatemalans and Jamaicans — tied for the lead on points with 2-1-1 records and seven points apiece. However, if the race ended today, the U.S. and Guatemala would move on thanks to goal differential; both teams have a plus two, having scored six goals and allowing four each. The Jamaicans are plus one, with four goals for and three against. So it’s anybody’s race. It should be one memorable finish. The Guatemalans host Jamaica on Oct. 12 before visiting the U.S. four days later. The U.S. travels to Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12, while the Reggae Boyz host the Caribbean side on Oct. 16. What a finish!
Group B: El Salvador (1-1-2, five) barely leads Costa Rica (1-2-1, four). The big match will be the Oct. 12 confrontation in San Salvador between the two foes. If El Salvador can prevail, it will clinch a berth. So, it is a must, must, must win for El Salvador. A tie or win will keep the Ticos alive. If it does, it will come down to Oct. 16, when Costa Rica hosts Guyana and El Salvador has to play Mexico at Azteca.
Group C: This one should go down to the wire. Honduras (2-1-1, seven) holds a slim lead over Canada (2-1-1, seven) by goals differential, plus two to none. The Hondurans have a difficult match in Panama on Oct. 12, while the Canadians take on Cuba in Toronto. Four days later, the ultimate match pits Honduras at home against Canada. Los Catrachos pulled off two wins over the Cubans in this past phase, while Canada went 1-1-0 vs. Panama. Tuesday night’s 2-0 upset coach Stephen Hart. More damaging could be the loss of standout midfielder Dwayne De Rosario to a knee injury he suffered in Panama. If he is out of the next phase, Canada’s chances could be slim or none.
A good fight
Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana
Their records might not necessarily indicate it, but Antigua & Barbuda and Guyana has made life difficult for its foes. Just ask Guatemala, which had to eke out a 1-0 away win in Antigua. Just ask El Salvador, which played to a a 2-2 draw with Guyana at home and needed a late goal to break a 2-2 deadlock to win, 3-2, on the road on Tuesday. Antigua and Guyana have been eliminated, but they could very well play a vital role in determining which
Gone, but not forgotten
Cuba (0-4-0, none) has not scored a goal in any of its games, but like its two Caribbean colleagues, still has two games remaining and that could play a role in determining which teams advance and those who have to wait four years to reach soccer’s promised land.
Photo: Carlos Ruiz has been Guatemala’s savior to date in World Cup qualifying. Wade Jackson/YCJ
Categories: Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Editorial, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, U.S.A., World Cup Qualifying
Tags: CONCACAF, World Cup qualifying