While the United States plays out its World Cup qualifier string with all the drama of Sunday pancake breakfast, the night in CONCACAF qualifying will be packed with floodlit theater surrounding Mexico’s match in Costa Rica.
The simplest scenario here is this: with a draw, Mexico will finish fourth in the six-team group at worst, and that’s good enough for the playoff series against New Zealand.
Honduras needs just a draw at (already eliminated) Jamaica to finish third and clinch its second consecutive World Cup berth. But if Honduras loses in Kingston, Mexico could vault past Los Catrachos by winning and overturning a small goal difference. All the World Cup scenarios are explained by FIFA just a little more in depth here.
So, again, bottom line for sudden hero Raul Jimenez (pictured) and suddenly re-energized El Tri, get at least a tie and keep the party going. What are the chances of such a thing? History suggest, pretty good.
Mexico is 4-0-1 against Costa Rica over the last three qualifying cycles. The only draw in that time was Mexico’s scoreless outing with the Ticos back in June, one of three scoreless draws this round at Azteca Stadium.
Costa Rica did have a famous win over the Mexicans at fabled Azteca, back in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.
But Mexico’s history in Costa Rica has been nothing short of stellar recently. The teams played to a scoreless draw in 2001 during final round qualifying there. Mexico prevailed (2-1) in the CONCACAF final round meeting at Estadio Saprissa ahead of World Cup 2006. And it was Mexico in a romp four years later in the same stage, hammering a 3-0 bruise on the Ticos at Saprissa ahead of World Cup 2010.
One thing to note: those were at Saprissa, as noted. This one is at San Jose’s new Estadio Nacional.
Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.
[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]
Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.
Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:
“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.
“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”
Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.
Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.
Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?
Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.
[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]
The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.
The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.
Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.
He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.
Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.
[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]
The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.
Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:
“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”
The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.
France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.
That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.
Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.
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2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE