Concacaf World Cup Qualifying is a grueling process for the final eight remaining teams. On the ninth matchday out of fourteen, there were teams who squeaked out wins, showed resolve to come back, asserted their dominance, and stayed alive in the competition. There was also the exact opposite of all of that too. Let’s take a look at the Concacaf Road to Qatar: matchday nine.
Road to Qatar: Matchday nine
The United States hosted El Salvador; Mexico went to Jamaica; Canada traveled to Honduras; Costa Rica played Panama on home soil. All four matches had drama and could have tipped in the direction of either nation. In the end, the teams that were in the coveted top three spots of the table all got wins, while the fight for fourth place tightened.
USMNT squeak out 1-0 win vs El Salvador
The USMNT came into their match against second-to-last-place side El Salvador looking for a comfortable win in Columbus. This match would prove to be anything but that. While the USA was clearly the better team, they struggled to break down El Salvador. El Salvador was comfortable defending first and attacking the counter second. For the USMNT, their build-up play was too slow, and players were out of position too much to break down their opponent.
Luckily for the USMNT, they were able to find the only goal of the game through Man of the Match Antonee Robinson. The left-back was able to get forward and finish off a chance in the 52nd minute. The USA squeaked out the win but will need to be better in their future matches if they want to make sure they get to Qatar 2022. El Salvador is all but eliminated as they’d have to win their remaining five games and hope that USA or Mexico pick up no points from their last five matches.
Mexico comeback against 10-man Jamaica
Mexico and Jamaica played a thrilling match in Kingston. The drama was felt in the first half as both teams went back and forth at each other. Just before half time the first edition of VAR at the Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers sent off Jamaica’s Damion Lowe. Jamaica would spend the whole second half with only 10 men. But that didn’t put a damper on their fight.
The Jamaican’s came out firing in the second half and found the game’s opening goal in the 50th minute. They had 40 minutes to hold onto the lead, and it looked like they might do just that, that is until the match entered its final 10 minutes. Mexico was constantly attacking after going down a goal. Their persistence paid off as they scored in the 81st and 83rd minutes to secure a much-needed comeback victory on the road. They stay in the top three after matchday nine, while Jamaica’s hopes for Qatar 2022 are dwindling.
Canada get convincing win at Honduras
The best team in Concacaf is Canada; you read that correctly. The Canadians entered matchday nine on top of the standings and went down to last place Honduras who needed a win to avoid elimination from Qatar 2022. It didn’t take long for Canada to take the lead. Tajon Buchanan danced his way through Honduras and fired the ball, it went off a Honduras player and into the net just 10 minutes into the match.
Honduras was not defeated though. They fought to find the equalizer, and in the second half it looked like they might have found it, but Canadian keeper Milan Borjan made spectacular saves. On one occasion he made a save that sprung a Canadian counter attack where Jonathan David neatly chipped the keeper to give Canada the 2-0 lead and comfortable win. Canada stay top after matchday nine, while Honduras will not be able to get enough points in the final five matchdays to make Qatar 2022.
Costa Rica stay alive with 1-0 win over Panama
Costa Rica hosted Panama in a match that was very important for both nations. Panama has been the surprise of qualifying so far they have pushed the top three nations, always being just a few points behind a top-three place. Costa Rica has not had that successful of a qualifying campaign, but their veterans can still produce magic. This match was a testament to that. Panama played the entire match on the front foot. They dominated possession and wanted to have the ball, while Costa Rica wanted little of the ball, but looked to win the transition moments.
The contrast in styles made for an intense affair with little few big chances. Costa Rica won on that front and converted one of their big chances for the only goal of the game. Costa Rican legend Bryan Ruiz came off the bench and scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute. This result meant Costa Rica pushed up to two points behind Panama for the fourth place spot, while Panama fell three points behind a coveted top-three place.
Matchday 10 is Sunday
The table is fully taking shape with only five more matches to play to decide who will qualify for Qatar 2022. The top three get an automatic bid to the World Cup, while the fourth-place team will play a playoff to determine if they can qualify or not. The top three of Canada, the USA, and Mexico are starting to pull away from the pack, while fourth place seems to be a fight between Panama and Costa Rica. There are two more matchdays inside of these seven days, starting with matchday 10 this Sunday. Here are those matches:
- Canada vs USA – 3:05 pm EST
- Mexico vs Costa Rica – 6 pm EST
- Panama vs Jamaica – 6:05 pm EST
- Honduras vs El Salvador – 7:05 pm EST
We get to see first vs second go head to head in Canada vs the USA! Could there be a shakeup at the top of the standings? Mexico could also benefit from a Canada and USA draw if they can beat Costa Rica. Will Costa Rica continue their surge up the table or will Panama get back to their winning ways vs Jamaica? Will Jamaica and El Salvador find wins to keep themselves alive? There’s a lot to look forward to; don’t miss the action Sunday night!
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Mandatory Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire