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Coming into the final day of the third round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, five spots were on the line. Group B was already locked up, thanks to Mexico’s undefeated record through group play. But in Group A and C, both spots were up for grabs.
By the end of Tuesday, all six places in the Hex were locked up, giving us a strong field of contenders for what promises to be a brutal final round of CONCACAF qualifying in 2013.
In Group A, the United States went up against Guatemala, knowing that at least a draw would be enough to move on to the next round. Despite a scary start, they advanced comfortably with a win over Guatemala. Jamaica proved too strong for Antigua & Barbuda to take the other spot.
Meanwhile, Canada came into the day on top of Group C, and left dejected after an embarrassing 8-1 loss to Honduras. With the win, Honduras ended up even with Panama atop the group, as Panama was able to pull out a draw against Cuba. Both ended up with 11 points, eliminating Canada and Cuba from the 2014 World Cup.
Mexico coasted to a win in Group B, already knowing their outlook well before they took the field Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Costa Rica held a two-point advantage over El Salvador for the final spot in the Hexagonal round. Costa Rica knocked in two early goals against Guyana to all but eliminate El Salvador early, who already held a slim chance of advancing going up against Mexico. After sustaining that lead, Costa Rica advanced as the final country to make their way into the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Here are the six nations who advanced to the fourth round, which will take place from February to October 2013. The format for the round has all six nations playing each other once, both home and away. The top three teams will advance to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, while the fourth-place nation will advance to a playoff against the winner of the Oceania qualifiers.
14 World Cup appearances
Last World Cup: 2010
El Tri comfortably advanced, as they had no troubles with the other representatives in Group B. They will look to continue their momentum over the past year, having won the gold medal at the Olympics over the summer. In 2010 qualifying, Mexico finished 2nd.
9 World Cup appearances
Last World Cup: 2010
The Americans certainly did not make it easy on themselves, having to at least tie Guatemala in the final match of the round. However, they were able to overpower the Guatemalans, coasting to a 3-1 victory, to win Group A. In 2010 qualifying, United States finished 1st.
2 World Cup appearances
Last World Cup: 2010
Much like Mexico, Los Catrachos have enjoyed themselves a successful 2012, with a strong showing in the Olympics, including a win over Spain. Going into the final day in a showdown with Canada, Honduras went on to an 8-1 drubbing to not only eliminate the Canadians, but also win the group thanks to goal differential. In 2010 qualifying, Honduras finished 3rd.
0 World Cup appearances
Thanks to a Nelson Barahona goal to tie it up with Cuba, the one point result was enough to move Panama to 11 points, enough for second place in Group C. They will be looking to qualify for their first ever World Cup, with a second place finish in the 2005 Gold Cup their most successful run during their history.
1 World Cup appearance
Last World Cup: 1998
The Reggae Boyz certainly mixed it up throughout group play, which included their first ever win over the United States. Despite that victory, the Jamaicans needed a convincing win over Antigua & Barbuda to advance. They did just that, with a 4-1 win, enough for second place in the group thanks to goal differential.
3 World Cup appearances
Last World Cup: 2006
With the last spot up for grabs, all Costa Rica had to do to guarantee a spot in the next round was defeat Guyana. They did just that, easily advancing with a 7-0 win. They will be looking to avenge the disappointment of 2010, having finished fourth in qualifying, and failing to advance to the World Cup after a loss to Uruguay in the playoff.