Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala will face off in the “return” leg of this home-and-away series on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 7:00 PM EDT at Vivian Richards Stadium in St. Johns. Guatemala defeated Antigua 3-1 this past Friday in a key victory in Guatemala City. Those three points are keeping Guatemala right in the middle of the action in Group A of the CONCACAF Qualifiers, tied with the USA with four points, and just three points behind Jamaica. Does Guatemala have what it takes to get a key win in Antigua?
The match in Guatemala City was played in a rain-soaked pitch, which really limited the short passing game. This was an advantage for the Antigua & Barbuda team, which was able to use its superior physicality and speed, combined with a long passing game for an effective attack. Peter Byers scored in the 38th minute on a long pass, giving the surprise lead to the visiting team. However, Guatemalan veteran hero, Pescadito Ruiz, came up big time in the second half and scored twice in the 58th and 79th minutes. Dwight Pezzarossi rounded up the scoring on a late 91st minute goal for Guatemala, to give the key 3-1 victory to the home team.
The bad weather was a big advantage for the Antiguan team, but the Guatemalan side was able to recuperate from the 1-0 deficit and get a very important win. Guatemala is now tied in the second spot with the USA with four points. Assuming a US win on Tuesday against Jamaica, if Guatemala gets the win in Antigua, we would see all three teams tied in the first spot with seven points each, and just two games remaining in Group A.
Guatemala’s final two matches will be at home against Jamaica, and away at the United States. It’s unlikely that the Guatemalans will get any points in their visit to the US. Thus, if Guatemala is able to beat Antigua & Barbuda on Tuesday, the match against Jamaica would be the deciding factor on which team moves on to the hexagonal round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
Prediction: If Guatemala wants to have a legitimate chance at moving on to the next round, it must win this match against Antigua and Barbuda. However, Antigua has proven in its last two matches that it is no cupcake, Guatemala is going to have to play at a high level if it wants to get this important away win. Lets not forget that Antigua and Barbuda was able to hold off Jamaica to a 0-0 draw, and was actually very close to winning the match. In the end, I believe the Guatemalans know they have too much at stake and will give it their all, pulling off a difficult away win. The score will be Antigua and Barbuda 1 – Guatemala 2.
Note: Antiguan goalkeeper Molvin James will miss the match, as he received a red card in the game against Guatemala.
Television: The Antigua and Barbuda vs Guatemala match will be shown on DirecTV by Pay-Per-View this Tuesday, September 11 at 7:00 PM Eastern.