Monday, June 08, 2009

World Cup 2010 Qualifying Report: CONCACAF

Costa Rica are the new leaders in the CONCACAF section after a stunning 3-1 win over the USA last week and a narrow 3-2 victory over Trinidad & Tobago on Saturday.

Rodrigo Kenton's side burst out of the blocks on Wednesday with a couple of quick goals that left Tim Howard and his defence reeling. The US team were 2-0 down after just 12 minutes thanks to goals by Alvaro Saborio and Celso Borges and they still hadn't fully recovered when half time came around.

Things got worse for the Americans half way through the second period when substitute Pablo Herrera easily made it 3-0 to the Ticos and though Landon Donovan scored from an injury time penalty, there was no doubt as to who the better side was.

"We were under pressure from the start and we didn't control the game," US coach Bob Bradley said. "In the first goal our reactions were a little bit slow and Saborio scores a very good goal. We knew we were going to feel the pressure and we did. I just don't think we were good enough".

Luckily for the US, a chance to bounce back came in the form of a home tie against Honduras two days ago but even that started badly when the Central Americans took the lead after five minutes. Carlos Costly's long-range effort silenced the Soldier Field crowd early on but Mario Beata handled the ball in his own area shortly after to allow Landon Donovan the chance to equalise from the penalty spot.

Into the second half and with the Americans battling hard it was Stade Rennais' Carlos Bocanegra who bravely headed in the winning goal through a mass of flying feet after 67 minutes. It means the USA are now second in the hexagonal behind Costa Rica while Mexico fell to their third defeat in four games against El Salvador.

New coach Javier Aguirre was back in charge of El Tri following the sacking of Sven Goran Eriksson earlier in the year, but the outcome remained the same as El Salvador ran out 2-1 winners. Even the return of Cuauhtémoc Blanco from retirement wasn't enough to earn the Mexicans a point although he did score from the penalty spot in the second half to get at least one goal on the scoreboard.

This month's results leave the qualifying table showing a sharp divide between the top two and the remaining four, and it's here that the really interesting battle will surely develop. Further to that, this Wednesday sees two key fixtures - one between Honduras and El Salvador at San Pedro Sula and the other between Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago at the Azteca. A win will be vital for all four teams as they attempt to close the gap on Costa Rica and the United States at the half-way point.

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