Football: Honduras eye World Cup berth, Mexico ‘must win’

Football: Honduras eye World Cup berth, Mexico ‘must win’

LOS ANGELES - Honduras host Costa Rica on Friday with a chance to secure a 2014 World Cup berth as mighty Mexico bid to breathe life into their CONCACAF qualifying campaign.

The United States and Costa Rica have already qualified for next year's finals in Brazil, leaving Honduras, Mexico and Panama battling for the third and final direct entry from North and Central America and the Caribbean with two matches remaining.

The fourth-placed team will face Oceania's New Zealand for a World Cup spot, with even lowly Jamaica still technically in with a chance of making the playoff.

Honduras lie third in the standings with 11 points, three more than both Mexico and Panama who face off at Azteca Stadium on Friday.

Honduras can book their second straight World Cup finals appearance, and third overall, with a victory over Costa Rica in San Pedro Sula - depending on the outcome in Mexico City.

Honduras missed out on a chance to bolster their position on September 10 when they were unable to hold onto an early lead and finished with a 2-2 draw against Panama.

Mexico will be under the microscope, their so-far disastrous qualifying campaign seeing them in danger of missing the World Cup finals for the first time since 1990 - when they were banned by FIFA for using overage players in the 1989 World Youth Championship.

With just one victory in eight matches in the six-nation final qualifying group, Mexico are fifth - trailing Panama on goal difference.

An embarrassing 2-1 defeat to visiting Honduras spelled the end of Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre's managerial tenure last month, and his successor, Luis Fernando Tena - who managed Mexico's 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning team - departed after a 2-0 loss to the United States in Columbus, Ohio, on September 10.

Victor Manuel Vucetich is now at the helm, and insists it is not too late for Mexico.

"The group is gelling more and more every day, and this gives us the serenity that we can come out victorious with this squad," he said.

In Panama they'll be facing a side hungry to follow up their run to the Gold Cup final with a first-ever trip to the World Cup finals.

The United States, who top the group with 16 points to Costa Rica's 15, host Jamaica on Friday in Kansas City and promised no let-up in their final two matches.

"We want to finish qualifying on a high note and prove a point in our region," said manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who called up Michael Orozco on Tuesday to replace injured defender Omar Gonzalez in the squad.

"We don't view these games as the end of World Cup qualifying. For us, it's the start of preparations for the World Cup and therefore we have to continue to raise the bar," added Klinsmann, who guided Germany to the World Cup semi-finals in 2006 when they hosted the tournament.

That could be bad news for Jamaica, who have just four points from eight matches and have yet to post a win in the group.

Qualifying in the region concludes on Tuesday, when Costa Rica host Mexico, Jamaica host Honduras and Panama host the United States.

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.