Friday, November 21, 2008

World Cup 2010 Round-up: November 2008

With 2008 ambling its way wearily to an end, November was the last chance for many countries to pick up some badly needed points in their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup. In the CONCACAF region, it was more important than that. Some countries had to win or see an end to their dreams of qualifying for the finals. Let's find out what happened over in...

North and Central America

...this week.

As you may recall from last month's update, three of the six Final Round spots had been filled by Costa Rica and El Salvador from Group 3 and the United States from Group 1. The last round of games this week featured a three-way battle between Mexico, Jamaica and Honduras for both the available places in Group 2, plus a two-into-one fight for the remaining Group 1 spot between Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala.

In Group 2, Mexico were standing on the precipice. A fixture in every World Cup since 1994, they now had to at least draw away to Honduras to stand a chance of reaching their fifth consecutive Finals. A defeat against Jamaica last month showed a worrying change of form for Sven Goran Eriksson's men, so naturally anything was expected to happen at the Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday.

In the end, Mexico's poor away form was maintained when Ricardo Osorio scored an own goal early in the second half without reply. As the game lumbered on towards its end, the Mexicans became more frustrated and they were to finish with only nine men.

Gerardo Torrado was booked for the second time in the match three minutes from the end for a poor tackle on Honduras' Carlos Costly (a Costly challenge if you will, ho ho) and a minute later Arsenal's Carlos Vela received a straight red for lashing out at Ramon Nunez.

The game ended 1-0 to Honduras which secured their passage through to Round 4, but Mexico were now waiting on the outcome of Jamaica's game at home to Canada.

The Reggae Boys admittedly needed a high-scoring win to leapfrog Mexico in the Group 2 table, but they very nearly achieved it. Former Sheffield United player Luton Shelton put his side 1-0 up after 27 minutes before Marlon King (currently on loan to Hull City) made it two with a 58th minute penalty. Though Colorado Rapids' striker Omar Cummings was to add a third four minutes from the end, it would prove not enough.

Jamaica's 3-0 win over Canada gave them a total of ten points - level with Mexico - but their goal difference was just four goals short of what was required. John Barnes' men ended their third round qualifying campaign unbeaten at home, and it only remains to wonder just what sort of effect he might have had on his team had he taken over as head coach earlier.

Sadly, Jamaica had to admit defeat while Mexico and Guatemala breathed a sigh of relief at reaching the final round. Would Trinidad & Tobago get the draw they needed against Cuba to take the last spot, or could Guatemala surprise everyone with a win over the USA to take it from them?

As it turned out, both matches finished in predictable fashion. The US team, despite already having qualified, were easily the better team as they beat Guatemala 2-0 thanks to second half goals from Freddy Adu and Kenny Cooper. As for T&T, they cruised to an easy 3-0 win at home to Cuba. Sunderland's Kenwyne Jones was first on the scoresheet after 67 minutes, swiftly followed by Dwight Yorke and later Keon Daniel.

All of which wraps up the third round of qualifying in North and Central America. The final round-robin group begins in 2009 and will consist of the following six teams:

Costa Rica
El Salvador
Trinidad & Tobago

The top three go through to South Africa 2010 while the fourth-placed team enters a play-off with the fifth-best team from South America.


Over in Asia, things haven't been quite as exciting but they are working their way quietly through their own final round of qualifiers.

Australia have hit the top of Group 1 and are already the team to beat with three wins out of three thus far. This week they inflicted a 1-0 away win on lowly Bahrain thanks to a goal from Palermo's Marco Bresciano. They're now two points clear of Japan who last month slipped up by drawing at home to Uzbekistan but this week thumped Qatar 3-0.

Qatar are a further three points behind Japan in third place while Bahrain and the Uzbeks trail on one point in fourth and fifth respectively.

In Group 2, the four-way tie for the lead we reported on last month has now been simplified thanks to South Korea's admirable 2-0 away win against Saudi Arabia. That win puts South Korea top of the group, two points clear of Iran who gave the United Arab Emirates their first point of the round in a 1-1 draw in Dubai.

North Korea didn't play but hold third place in the group, level on four points with Saudi Arabia in fourth while the UAE trail behind in last place.

And that's just about all for now with regards to the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign. We'll be back in 2009 to pick up the threads on the final run-in and tell you who's in and who's out.


ob said...

Mexico were disqualified from Italia '90.

Chris O said...

Oops - apologies for that. Error now corrected. Thanks for the feedback... :)


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