For about 10 minutes, the region was absolutely turned on its head, mad as some barnyard critter. Panama’s dreamy visions of a first World Cup berth were alive and kicking thanks to a lead over the United States down in rainy Panama City.
Mexico, so talented, so heavily favored to rule the region as final round qualifying started earlier this year, was on the brink of the unthinkable, missing its first World Cup since 1990 while going down meekly on a rainy night in Costa Rica.
And then it really got weird …
Goals by two U.S. men, Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson, put the heart paddles (Clear!) on Mexico’s World Cup heartbeat. Imagine that … the United States riding heroically to Mexico’s rescue!
All three final matches in CONCACAF final round World Cup qualifying were playing out dramatically at the same time, all with something to say about who did and did not go to Brazil next summer. (How much do simultaneous kickoffs rock!)
Here’s the quick look at how the CONCACAF region finished. More to come at ProSoccerTalk:
United States 3, at Panama 2: The United States finished with a late win, shattering Panamanian hearts as Zusi, scoring in his second consecutive World Cup qualifier, timed his run into the penalty area and clinically headed in Brad Davis’ cross from the left. Johannsson’s swell strike made the final score 3-2, but it was that tying goal that made the difference.
Panama needed a clear victory in order to take fourth place away from Mexico.
at Costa Rica 2, Mexico 1: The insanity of it! Mexico couldn’t get the job done and needed – check that; “desperately needed” – help from its most bitter rival just to get into a playoff for a spot in Brazil.
It looked like madness at times in San Jose, Costa Rica. Visiting Mexico was desperate for a result. Costa Rica, its place at World Cup 2014 secure, was free to play loose, but driven by the opportunity to potentially bounce the longtime regional bully right out of Brazilian contention.
Bryan Ruiz set the entire region alight with his early goal, as the Fulham man spun inside the Mexican penalty area to set the home crowds on fire in two countries, there and in Panama.
Mexico equalized, but Alvaro Saborio’s uncontested header put the Ticos up in the 64th minute. Rafa Marquez, recalled somewhat inexplicably into the team, was all kinds of lost when he should have been marking Saborio.
The Mexicans threatened here and there but, let’s be honest: El Tri barely deserves to be here. They are lucky to remain alive in this competition, with little heart about it all and even less creativity in its attack.
The home-and-away playoff for a spot in Brazil will be in November.
Honduras 2, at Jamaica 2: Congrats to Los Catrachose, a small country that keeps accomplishing big things in soccer. A draw in Kingston – never mind those nervous moments at the end of this one – puts Honduras into a second consecutive World Cup.
Automatic berths from CONCACAF, therefore, go to:
- United States
- Costa Rica
The region’s fourth-place playoff spot (for a home-and-away series with New Zealand):