Monday, September 07, 2009

World Cup Round-Up: Part 3 - CONCACAF / Asia


In the North and Central American hexagonal, the top four teams appear to be decided - the question now is which three will gain the automatic qualification places?

The group table has an unfamiliar look with Honduras in top spot, level on thirteen points with the United States. Mexico have climbed to third after their disastrous start and are now a point behind the leaders, level on points with Costa Rica in fourth. A further seven points behind are El Salvador (5th) and Trinidad and Tobago (6th) who can now consider their campaigns all but over.

In the weekend matches, Honduras scored four for the second successive game, this time beating Trinidad & Tobago who could only manage one consolation goal five minutes from the end. Honduran stalwart Carlos Pavon took his international tally to 55 with two goals inside the first half hour. Amado Guevara and David Suazo added the other two in the second half to round off a comfortable win for Honduras who look a sure fire bet to reach the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1982.

The US team had to come from a goal down to beat El Salvador 2-1 in Utah on Sunday. Christian Castillo put the visitors in front just after half an hour had passed with a header that caught Tim Howard well off his line, but the hosts were back in the game just before half time. Clint Dempsey's diving header brilliantly converted Landon Donovan's free kick and it was the same source and set play that gave Hull City's Jozy Altidore the chance to head home in stoppage time at the end of the game.

Finally in San Jose, Mexico continued their amazing post-Sven transformation with a 3-0 win against Costa Rica. Giovani Dos Santos was the key man for the Mexicans following his stunning goal at the end of the first half before setting up Guillermo Franco and Andres Guardado in the second.

So the top four will now battle out a nervy last three fixtures in a bid to avoid fourth spot in the table which will lead to a play-off match against the fifth-best team in South America. This Wednesday's fixtures see El Salvador play host to Costa Rica, while the USA travel to Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico host Honduras.

Full results and standings from the CONCACAF qualifying zone available here.


While the four automatic qualifiers for South Africa 2010 are already known in Asia, there is a chance for one more team to go through via a play-off against the Oceania winners, New Zealand.

The team that gets to play them will be either Bahrain or Saudi Arabia who played the first leg of their own play-off on Saturday. The match in Manama finished goalless and was notable for Bahrain's inability to convert the many chances they had and Saudi Arabia's apparent willingness to play for a draw.

With the return leg due to be played in Riyadh on Wednesday, the Saudis will favour their chances of winning in front of a home crowd, but they'll have to do so without their star striker Naif Hazazi who is out for six months with a serious injury.

To be honest, we're not sure if the away goal rule will apply to this week's match, but if it does, Bahrain might be the better bet based on their lively performance on Saturday. That said, they too are desperately in need of someone up front that can put the ball in the net, so don't be surprised if penalties are called for on Wednesday.

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