World Cup Qualifying

Mexico finish fourth in standings thanks to USMNT, Honduras clinch World Cup berth, and more

OribePeraltaChicharitoMexico1-CostaRica (AP)


Who said that CONCACAF wasn’t exciting?

Heading into the final day of World Cup qualifying, one of the region’s powers, Mexico, stood teetering on the precipice of qualification with destiny in their hands as long as they earned a point.

Before a ball was even kicked, El Tri fans knew that their national team could clinch a place in Brazil next summer with a big enough victory and a Honduras loss, or they could spiral out of qualification in embarrassment and spend the next three years waiting for the next round of qualifiers to play in.

After 90 minutes plus extra time of play across the region, Mexico found themselves still alive in for the 2014 World Cup thanks to Graham Zusi and the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 3-2 win in Panama, despite Mexico falling to Costa Rica, 2-1. With a 2-2 tie in Jamaica, Honduras secured an automatic berth in the World Cup, earning a place in the prestigious competition for only the third time.

Like they have done all year long, El Tri didn’t make it easy on themselves all evening. Manager Victor Manuel Vucetich decided to drop Giovanni Dos Santos out of the lineup and, against a battle ready Costa Rica backline, Mexico’s attack didn’t have enough firepower throughout the game, even after Dos Santos came on in the second half.

After a Gabriel Torres strike put Panama up one goal over the USA, Mexico had its first taste of the fear and pressure that comes with potentially missing out on a World Cup as Costa Rican playmaker Bryan Ruiz chested a pass down beautifully in the box and finished with a blast to put the hosts ahead in the 24th minute at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.

At that time, with El Tri trailing and Panama winning, Mexico would have been eliminated from contention for Brazil. Yet it was Oribe Peralta, who scored a key goal last Friday for El Tri, who came up big for his nation again.

Javier Hernandez, who had another poor day up top for Mexico, dribbled past Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas but lost control of the ball after a slight touch from Navas. Peralta arrived on the scene and fired home into an empty net to tie the game three minutes later, keeping Mexico’s hopes alive.

By halftime, all the scores stood level, including Honduras holding a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Carlo Costly just seconds into the match and Maynor Figueroa, while Je-Vaugn Watson was credited with scoring the Reggae Boyz tally in the third minute.

In the second half, Mexico were handed another lifeline as USMNT defender Michael Orozco scored to tie the USA with Panama at 1-1, leaving Mexico in a position to at least qualify through the playoffs. But minutes after Jamaica equalized against Honduras, Mexico would go down 2-1 thanks to some poor defending at a crucial part of the match.

Oft-injured Real Salt Lake Designated Player Alvaro Saborio rose the highest on a cross and found an open path in the net to head into, piling more pressure on El Tri in the 63rd minute. The goal came four minutes after Rodolph Austin equalized for Jamaica with a penalty kick goal.

To make matters worse, the USMNT went down a goal again in Panama after Luis Tejada scored from close range, leaving Mexico on the brink of elimination. El Tri’s attack, which had been renewed with the fresh legs of dos Santos, Raul Jimenez, and Isaac Brizuela, couldn’t break down the sturdy Ticos back-line, leaving Mexico to hope that the USMNT could defy the odds and score in the final few minutes of the match.

The soccer deities must have smiled down on Mexico because despite falling to Costa Rica, they did clinch a place in the play-off against New Zealand, thanks to two USMNT goals in stoppage time that brought all three points back to the United States. At the same moment that Mexico and Costa Rica players and fans all celebrated in San Jose, the Panamanian squad and their fans looked on in stunned silence with their sudden defeat, ending their dreams of a first-ever World Cup berth.

After 90 minutes of action in three locations, the final CONCACAF Hexagonal standings look like this (wins, loss, draw):

1. USA: 7-2-1, 22 points
2. Costa Rica: 5-2-3, 18 points
3. Honduras: 4-3-3, 15 points
4. Mexico: 2-3-5, 11 points
5. Panama: 1-4-5, 8 points
6. Jamaica: 0-5-5, 5 points


What did you think of Tuesday night’s results? Ever seen a night of soccer quite like this one? Did you want the U.S. to fall to Panama so Mexico would be out? Do you see Mexico improving ahead of their New Zealand tie?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Jordy

    A small part of me still wants to New Zealand beats Mexico. At the same time, I would rather play Mexico right now over Panama if we needed a win to move on in the World Cup.


    • John

      What kind group is Mexico possibly getting out of? I know everyone seems to think they are just going to snap out of this one day but they just aren’t very good.


      • Ali Dia

        Well thay snapped into it, didn’t they? 15 months ago Mexico won GOLD at the Olympics, comprehensively beating a Brazil team rife with current and future stars. The talent is there somewhere.


      • Tony

        They remind me of Portugal in the mid 90s. A boatload of talent who just can’t put it together as a unit.


    • away goals

      That hypothetical doesn’t make any sense. We won’t need a win over panama to move on in a world cup.

      Panama would have gone to brazil, enjoyed their two week party, and returned home after 3 games. Mexico, on current form, would be three and out as well.

      But there’s at least some chance el tri can pull their sh-t together and steal a result to advance from the group.

      So if you’re going to compare potential knockout opponents, you’re actually comparing mexico to whoever would have eliminated panama in the group stage.


  • Timber Danny

    For the first time I’m mad at my USMNT.

    No, really, I’m actually kind of pissed that we won.


    • wandmdave

      After the Panamanian keeper faked an injury to waste time I lost all empathy. When the goal came I savored it. Next time if they man up and actually play the game instead of rolling around and wasting time like they are scared they will concede then they might deserve a W.


    • papasteve_z

      You are mad at the US for winning and attempting to grow a culture of success to move into the worlds elite? What the hell kind of fan are you? You worried about Mexico? Cause I’m sure as hell not. I’m interested in the US winning no matter what to become the best we can be. Have fun crying over Panama. Maybe they should have beaten a few more weaker teams earlier on so they wouldn’t be in the position they were in. Also your panama jersey is in the mail.


    • Kung Fu Kangaroos

      Agreed. Eliminating Mexico from the World Cup is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we let it slip away.


      • first time caller

        apparently it comes up now and again in this lifetime… that is if your lifetime spans more than 11 years back from this one…

        I’d much rather eliminate them in person, in front of millions and millions of people on TV live to the world in the knockout round, by an embarassing scoreline. but hey, you and the rest of the sadsacks crying into your yellow milk drink, turn that frown upside down. Mexico still has another two chances to melt down before the big dance and ease your suffering. methinks they won’t let you down.


  • Ted in MN

    If I need to buy a coach right now, I’ll tell you exactly who I want: Julio Dely Valdes. If he stays around for another cycle, they’re in. Really impressed over the past 2 years.


    • ComoParker

      +1. Thought his teams were well organized and strategic. The only knock was that they didn’t close out critical games.


  • TomG

    I feel bad for Panama. They deserved it more than Mexico. Panama never gave up and really went for it while El Tri, aside from the magical bike, just seemed to give up so many times during the hex. Nice to see AJ striking the ball with authority. Jozy was great in the first but seemed to run out of gas. Davis’ crossing was superb. Mix was just a bit off tonight. Castillo is a defender that can’t defend and doesn’t even try to close out his man. Great goal by Zusi, but he was pretty poor all night, constantly taking too many touches and too slow with his decisions. Evans looked incredibly slow in the second half but may have run out of gas (or he might just be that slow). Kljestan again failed to impress. Same for Bedoya. We knocked it around okay for spells but it seemed like Panama was dangerous every time they got in the final third. Without Besler and Bradley, it seemed like there was no one to organize the defense.


  • Hopper

    In the end, Panama didn’t do enough to win. They went crazy when they went up 2-1 and forgot that they still needed to defend. I was shocked enough when Zusi scored, because let’s be honest, the USA weren’t great in this game. But for Johannson to score a minute later was unbelievable.

    You gotta love how the USA reacted to both of those goals. Heads down, respectfully walking back to the center circle knowing they just punished Panama for celebrating too early.


  • Squatchy?

    Thought this might be fun to think about and look at…..this is of course early to be doing this, but gives us an idea of what the seeding might look like in December. I made the assumption that Netherlands will jump Uruguay for a top 8 spot, and also made predictions on the Uefa playoff spots, the African spots, and the inter-confederations spots. I am also assuming that FIFA sets up the groups the same way, with pot 1 being the top 8 (which it will be), pot 2 being Uefa, pot 3 being Africa and South America, and pot 4 being concacaf and Asia. If nothing else, it makes me realize how easy of a group we had in 2010. Some of these possibilities are daunting. Think of being in a group of Brazil, Portugal, Ghana and USA. Or Spain, England, Uruguay and USA. Or Argentina, France, Ivory Coast and USA. Honestly, even our best case scenario, which in my opinion would be Italy, Switzerland, Cameroon and USA is certainly still tough, and would be difficult for us to get out of that group. Its going to be difficult for us to get a draw against any of the Pot 1 teams…and I would say our best chance to get a result is against Italy. Everyone else would require a great effort. This is a bit humbling, but it means its going to be an exciting world cup. As always, the draw is going to be huge. It seems like there are great teams all over the place.

    Pot 1

    Pot 2

    Pot 3
    Uruguay…..Chile……Ghana…….Ecuador……Ivory Coast……..Nigeria……..Algeria……..Cameroon

    Pot 4
    USA……..Japan……..South Korea…..Costa Rica…….Australia……Honduras…..Mexico……Iran


      • NC Jeff

        They already announced that the seeds (i.e., pot 1) would be Brazil + the 7 highest FIFA ranked teams other than Brazil at the time of the draw in Dec. Since those rankings obviously haven’t been posted, it’d be hard to say for certain which ones will be seeded … also, Italy was 4th and Switz. 14th in last month’s rankings.


      • away goals

        Seedings are determined by fifa’s october rankings.

        Using the fifa ranking tool, sui, col and uru will be seeded while ned and ita both miss out.

        That leaves 9 unseeded uefa teams so the pot situation isn’t as tidy as 2010.


  • MLS_Soccer_Talker

    Remember when everybody was so worried about the USA during the pre -Hexagonal qualifiers?


  • Sno Fro

    I have family in Panama, devastated is a good word. The reality is, the Canaleros tied Jamaica, El Tri at home, lost with 5 minutes to go at Azteca, and at the death to USA. They simply could not defend a few more minutes to get a result, good teams know how to win and close it out. I like the way JK has the U.S. fighting for the full 90 and he sure does have a magic touch with subs!


    • PD

      Sport can be very cruel sometimes, my friend. For what it’s worth, and as heartbreaking a result as this is, your country should be very proud of this team, which has for several years now been a tough opponent to the USA while playing with a lot of skill and integrity.


  • Jim

    Well, I’ll say it if no one else does: Viva Costa Rica! They already had their ticket and many thought they’d just lay back, but no…they came to win.


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