By DAN KARELL
The U.S. Men’s National Team wasn’t the only CONCACAF nation to secure a berth in the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday evening.
Costa Rica earned a place in next summer’s tournament in Brazil thanks to a 2-2 draw between Honduras and Panama as well as the USA 2-0 victory over Mexico. The Ticos qualified despite drawing themselves, 1-1, against Jamaica.
Heading into stoppage time in their respective games, both Honduras and Costa Rica were just moments away from earning pivotal victories in their quest to qualify. But both the Catrachos and the Ticos would concede just seconds before the final whistle to succumb to dropped points.
In Kingston, Jamaica, it took 75 minutes before the visiting Costa Rican side could break the deadlock. With regular starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts missing due to yellow card accumulation, Jamaica’s Richard McCallum failed to guard his near post, allowing Costa Rica substitute Randall Brenes to finish off the post and across the line.
Despite going down a goal, the Jamaicans fought back for their new coach, Winfried Schäfer, and earned a late equalizer to the delight of their home crowd. A long ball played from the left side of the field needed just a touch, which is just what Jermaine Anderson did in the second minute of stoppage time.
The draw keeps Jamaica’s microscopic chances of reaching the World Cup alive, though they will need to win their remaining two matches along with getting a lot of help from the rest of the group. The Reggae Boyz need Mexico and Panama to tie their next match against each other at Estadio Azteca, and both of them to lose their final round matches.
In the other World Cup qualifier in Central America, Honduras hosted Panama with hopes to pull away from Mexico. Catrachos striker Carlo Costly scored the game’s opener in the 27th minute, but Panama would manage to equalize on the other side of halftime in the 49th minute on a terrific effort by forward Gabriel Torres.
Honduras took the lead once more when midfielder Wilson Palacios delicately chipped Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo in the 61st minute. Though the Canaleros were pushing for another goal, Honduras was doing just enough every time to keep Panama from establishing enough rhythm.
But in 90th-minute stoppage time, left back Luis Henriquez played a wonderful curling effort that found the foot of young defender Roberto Chen, who scored arguably the biggest goal of his career to level the scoreline at 2-2.
The goal keeps Panama’s slim qualification hopes alive, and they’ll have a chance to make a huge statement to the region and world when they play their next qualifier at Estadio Azteca against Mexico on October 11.
Here are the CONCACAF HEXAGONAL standings through eight rounds:
*1. USA…………………..16 points
*2. Costa Rica…………15 points
3. Honduras………….11 points
4. Mexico………………..8 points
5. Panama……………….8 points
6. Jamaica………………4 points
(*- Qualified for 2014 World Cup)
What do you think of these results? See Honduras holding on to the third spot? Think Panama overtakes Mexico for the playoff spot?
Share your thoughts below.