Posted on October 16, 2012
By Michael Lewis
KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Tuesday is D Day for eight teams still alive and kicking for next year’s World Cup qualifying final round.
The United States, Guatemala and Jamaica are vying for two slots in Group A, Central American rivals Costa Rica and El Salvador are battling for the final Group B position and Panama, Honduras and Canada are in a quest for the two Group C berths.
Only Mexico is safe entering the sixth and final CONCACAF qualifying date.
Three Caribbean teams — Antigua & Barbuda, Cuba and Guyana — have been eliminated, but two of those countries could play a spoilers’ role.
And just so there won’t be any hanky-panky, each group games will be played at the same time. For example, Honduras and Canada will tussle at 4 p.m. ET in Group C, as will Panama and Cuba.
By later Tuesday night, the United States, Jamaica, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras should have booked spots for the 2013 hexagonal.
Here’s one writer’s opinion as to who will survive and who will have to wait four more years:
U.S. 2, Guatemala 1
The U.S. (3-1-1, 10 points) should qualify and should defeat the Central Americans. The Americans have never lost to Guatemala (3-1-1, 10) on U.S. soil, sporting a 10-0-1 mark, including a spotless 5-0-0 in qualifying. But as we all know, crazy things have been known to happen during qualifying. That being said, the U.S. should prevail, leaving the Guatemalans’ hopes hanging on the Jamaica result. You have to wonder, though, if the game is tied in the later stages on whether it will end the same way, since a draw would boost both sides into the next round. Carlos Ruiz deserves an opportunity to play in a World Cup after a great career, but it doesn’t look that way.
Jamaica 3, Antigua 0
Jamaica (2-2-1, seven) doesn’t hold all the cards in its fate, but the Reggae Boyz certainly hold enough against Antigua (0-4-1, one), although they need some help. They have to pray for a win and not a draw between the U.S. and Guatemala. Let’s say there is a one-goal win in the other group match. The Jamaicans would need to outscore the loser by at least two goals to tie in goal-differential or three to qualify for the final round outright. Assuming these are the two Group A results, Jamaica should squeak by by goal differential. It could be one wild finish in the group come 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Costa Rica 3, Guyana 1
Barring a major collapse by the Ticos or a giant upset by the Caribbeans, the Costa Ricans (2-2-1, seven) should move on. Guyana (0-4-1, one) has offered some tough opposition in two of its matches, scoring two goals twice, no mean feat by one of the semifinal round minnows. The team held off Mexico, which broke through for five late goals in its 5-0 triumph in Houston on Friday. If the Ticos can’t get past their foes at home, they do not deserve to be in the hexagonal. It’s as simple as that.
Mexico 3, El Salvador 1
The Salvadorans (1-2-2, five) need a miracle — Costa Rica to tie or fall at home to Guyana and a win at Azteca Stadium. They might have a better chance of winning the lottery because they allowed Costa Rica to win in their place on Friday, 1-0. A tie against El Tri in Mexico City would be considered a great and rare achievement. Even with the Mexicans (5-0-0, 15) putting up an inept performance for the opening 75 minutes of its 5-0 triumph over Guyana on Friday, they should prevail in a match in which they will be playing for their pride and a chance to finish the round unbeaten.
Honduras 2, Canada 1
Despite being without two key injured players — midfielder Roger Espinoza and goalkeeper Noel Valladares — the Hondurans (2-1-2, eight) should win and survive until the next round, partly due to their talent and home-field advantage. The Canadians (3-1-1, 10) have problems finishing. Against a short-handed Cuban side at home on Friday, Canada dominated the match and took a ton of shots, but could find the net only three times. What will it be like in the cauldron of San Pedro Sula, Honduras? Losing the fabulous Dwayne De Rosario to a knee injury could be too much to overcome.
Panama 2, Cuba 0
As I’ve said before, this is a special, golden generation of Panamanian players and the Central American team will not let this opportunity pass them by. Panama (3-1-1, 10) should have no problem securing a win, although a tie would push them into the next round. Cuba (0-5-0, none), which hasn’t scored a goal, faces larger issues. There is a great talent drain as 19 men’s internationals have defected over the past decade. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Monday he would discuss the situation with Cuban soccer officials.
Categories: Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, Caribbean, Central America, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, North America, Panama, U.S.A., World Cup Qualifying
Tags: Carlos Ruiz, CONCACAF, Dwayne De Rosario, Regg, Sepp Blatter, World Cup qualifying