By DAN KARELL
The third match day of the CONCACAF Hexagonal round sees a match between rivals (U.S. vs. Mexico), and two other matches between teams trying to create space between one another. Last-place Costa Rica take on Jamaica, who are right in the middle of the pack, while leaders Honduras visit Panama, with two points from two draws.
If there is anything to learn about the previous two match days, it’s that the unexpected can, and maybe will, happen. Normally Panama wouldn’t be given much of a chance to defeat Honduras, even at home, but after coming back to draw Jamaica on Friday the Panamanians will likely believe that they can record an improbable win.
Costa Rica is certainly stewing over the defeat in Denver to the United States, and could take out their revenge on Jamaica. Yet the Jamaican tie against Mexico in February and their defeat of the U.S. last fall shows that they are a strong side, and could give Costa Rica a good run for their money if the Latin American nation aren’t careful.
All six teams are still within one win of moving to the top of the group, but after Tuesday the standings could look a bit different.
Here is a closer look at tonight’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifying action:
COSTA RICA vs. JAMAICA
TV: 10pm, BeIN Sport
Last Time Out: Costa Rica dropped a 1-0 result to the United States last Friday in snowy Denver, while the Jamaicans drew at home 1-1 with Panama.
The Matchup: Costa Rica is not happy that they lost in the difficult conditions in the United States last week, but they are still a squad that won’t count themselves out of a chance of making it to the World Cup this early. Facing the Jamaicans at home won’t be easy either, and they’ll have to get the most out of their forward duo of Alvaro Saborio and Bryan Ruiz. The two scored a goal each in Los Ticos’ first match, coming back from a two goal deficit in Panama. Jamaica on the other hand will be disappointed they didn’t pick up three points at home after a Marvin Elliott header put them ahead. The Reggae Boyz are fast and fit, but haven’t performed well away from home. In fact, they haven’t won away away from home in a World Cup qualifier since a 6-0 win over the Bahamas in June of 2008.
PANAMA VS. HONDURAS
TV: 10pm, BeIN Sport 2
Last Time Out: Panama drew with Jamaica 1-1 in Kingston, while Honduras drew 2-2 with Mexico in San Pedro Sula.
The Matchup: Even on the road, Honduras will be the favorites going into this match. The win over the U.S. gave the Hondurans an incredible amount of momentum, and the comeback against Mexico won’t hurt that at all. Of course, those two results came at home, where they have a huge advantage in the Estadio Olimpico, but they also have an advantage over Panama on Tuesday when Carlo Costly walks on the field. His goal to cut the deficit on Friday against Mexico came precisely because of his 6-foot-four-inch frame, jumping over the shorter Mexican defenders. Panama’s Felipe Baloy will spend much of the game marking Costly, but at age 32, there are questions being asked if he can handle the challenge. On the other side, Panama will also need to find an answer for the midfield duo of Oscar Boniek Garcia and Roger Espinoza, high-level players capable of taking over a match at any time. Los Canaleros will have at least one thing going for them, as forwards Blas Perez and Luis Tejada have proved they can score goals at the international level. The two have combined to score 12 goals already for Panama during their path through CONCACAF World Cup qualification.
What do you think of these matches? Who do you see winning tonight?
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