By DAN KARELL
If all goes well on Tuesday evening for Honduras, Los Catrachos could be ever closer to qualifying for their second consecutive World Cup, a historic first for the Central American country.
After sealing an equally historic victory against Mexico in Azteca Stadium on Friday night, Luis Fernando Suarez’s side now return home to face Panama, who could only manage a scoreless draw against Jamaica, despite playing with a man advantage for 32 minutes. A Honduras win coupled with a Mexico loss would put five points between the two nations in third and fourth place, respectively, in the Hexagonal.
Costa Rica meanwhile travel to face the very Jamaicans who secured a confidence-building road point, and the Ticos will have to be careful. Despite the emotion-filled 3-1 victory against the United States on Friday, Costa Rica lost starters Michael Umaña, Christian Bolaños, and goalkeeper Keilor Navas, due to yellow card accumulation.
Honduras, as they showed in Mexico City, have a fit and talented squad available, with even Jerry Bengtson putting in a good performance despite not making the lineup for the New England Revolution. As he has throughout all of the qualifying process, forward Carlo Costly has proven himself to be one of the best target forwards in the region, scoring five goals in ten matches, and bagging himself the game winner against Mexico.
The battle between Costly and Panamanian defender Felipe Baloy will certainly be one to keep an eye on, as brute strength battles it’s mirror image. We may see a similar confrontation at the other end of the field where Panama’s Blas Perez will set up. The FC Dallas forward was out of the lineup for the Canaleros’ draw with Jamaica, but he’s returned to fitness and will be counted on to bring home a huge result on the road.
For Jamaica, former Cameroon head coach and Borussia Mönchengladbach standout Wilfried Schaefer has taken control of the team this summer and will make his home debut when the Reggae Boyz take the field against Costa Rica.
The hosts will be without star goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts due to yellow card accumulation, as well as Rudolph Austin, who picked up a red card in the last match. In addition, right back Alvas Powell limped off towards the end of the first half with an ankle injury, and it’s unknown whether he will feature.
Both Honduras and first-placed Costa Rica will also have to be on guard. Their next obstacles, against the fifth-placed Panama and sixth-placed Jamaica, respectively, could easily be defined as trap games. And as Panama showed during the Gold Cup and Jamaica showed last fall in Kingston against the U.S. Men’s National Team, neither one can truly be taken lightly.
Who do you see winning these CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers? Do you see Honduras defeating Panama? Do you see yellow card suspensions hurting Costa Rica’s chances in Jamaica?
Share your thoughts below.