The second match day of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers were held today (6/12/2012) with several tight games and one surprise result. The results in this round of CONCACAF qualifying have still left the groups wide open, and there is plenty of meaningful soccer to be played in the coming months.
Antigua & Barbuda vs Jamaica: 0 – 0
Jamaica lost an important chance to take a commanding point advantage over Guatemala and Antigua & Barbuda. Instead, Jamaica had a disappointing tie against CONCACAF minnows Antigua, and were actually close to losing the match due to several close shots form the Antiguan offense. In the end, neither team was able to damage one another, and Antigua & Barbuda gained its first point in Group A. This leaves Jamaica with four points, tied with the USA. Jamaica will face the USA in a home-and-away series in September, and if it gets negative results against the USMNT, the dropped points against Antigua could prove to be decisive.
Canada vs Honduras: 0 – 0
Honduras came off a surprising 2-0 home loss against Panama, and needed to get at least one point in order to keep high hopes for moving on to the final round of the CONCACAF qualifiers. Canada had achieved its first three points by beating Cuba 1-0 in Havana. This was a tight match with only a small number of close chances on either side: Honduras came closest to scoring in the 40th minute, as Anthony Lozano struck a ball from close
range but missed wide of the net. David Edgar almost scored for Canada in the 67th minute, he headed the ball inside the box but was barely wide of the goal.
This leaves Honduras with one point and Canada with four points, each trailing Group C leaders Panama, who have won their first two matches against Honduras and Cuba. Honduras got what they came for, a point that would leave them within striking distance of the second place spot and a chance to play in the next round of the CONCACAF qualifiers. The qualifiers will start again in September, and Honduras will face Cuba twice, while Canada will do the same against Panama. This will be a pivotal series for both teams, Honduras can make up for lost points by beating Cuba twice, while Canada will face a tough challenge against the Panamanians. We shall see what type of results September brings us.
Guyana vs Costa Rica: 0 – 4
Costa Rica had a tough last minute draw at home against El Salvador in match day 1 of the CONCACAF qualifiers, and needed to make up for the lost points at home by beating tiny Guyana. Costa Rica knew they had to win the match held in Georgetown, and they did not dissapoint, by crushing the opposition with a 4 – 0 victory. Alvaro Saborio was the Costa Rican hero, as he scored a hattrick by scoring in the 20th, 26th, and 52nd minutes. Joel Campbell rounded off the scoring with a 77th minute goal. Costa Rica clearly dominated the match from start to end, and the semi-pro Guyanese national squad never really stood a chance.
This victory puts Costa Rica with four points in Group B, trailing Mexico who has six points. Costa Rica will face tough back-to-back matches against Mexico in September, a series where they could end up with no points earned. El Salvador would get to play Guyana twice, and if the results align, could end up having a three point advantage over Costa Rica. I belive the second spot for Group B won’t be decided until El Salvador and Costa Rica face each other in October. We shall see if the tie at home against El Salvador will prove to be too costly for the Ticos.
Panama vs Cuba: 1 – 0
Panama has had a great start in Group C of the CONCACAF qualifiers, they won an away match against Honduras, and they finished off a feisty Cuban team 1 – 0 in a match played in Panama City. The lone goal of the match was scored by Nelson Barahona, after a great triangulation just outside the box and an absolutely fantastic finish. The Cubans tried to push forward to tie the game, but they simply didn’t have the talent and ended up losing the match. Panama now finds itself atop Group C with six points, two points ahead of second place Canada.
In September, Panama will face Canada in back-to-back games that could propel them into the final round of the CONCACAF qualifiers. A win at home and a tie away would place them with 10 points, nearly assuring Panama a spot in the next round. As of now, Panama has been the team that has surprised me the most, playing quality soccer and getting the wins. I predict that they will indeed get a home win and an away tie against Canada, and will move on to the Hexagonal final.