By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Sep 12, 2012) US Soccer Players – Mexico punched its ticket to the Hexagonal on Tuesday night after defeating Costa Rica 1-0, becoming the first team to advance out of the Semifinal Round. For Mexico, it was their first game at Estadio Azteca since losing to the United States there last month in a friendly.
At the same time, the evening was must-win for several teams. A quartet of Central American teams – Panama, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – all recorded victories to keep their Brazil ’14 hopes alive in what tuned out to be a night of intense games.
The games produced four 1-0 results, proving once again how tight it has been this summer in the race for the six-team final round. Of the 12 teams participating in this round, Cuba is the only one mathematically eliminated from contention after four games.
With the USA beating Jamaica 1-0 in Columbus, here is a recap of the other five games:
Guatemala 1 – Antigua and Barbuda 0
The USA got no help from tiny Antigua and Barbuda as Guatemala defeated the twin-island nation 1-0 on the road to take all six points out of their home-and-away series. The game-winner in St. John’s came in the 25th minute when Carlos Ruiz unleashed a long-range strike. Ruiz’s unstoppable 30-yard volley found the upper corner and beat goalkeeper Keita DeCastro to his right. For Ruiz, it was his 55th goal in 103 games for Guatemala.
Looking for its first-ever World Cup finals bid, Guatemala (2-1-0) is now in a three-way tie for the top spot in the group (along with the US and Jamaica) with two games left. They hold 2nd-place on a tiebreaker over Jamaica. Antigua and Barbuda (0-3-1) is in last place.
Mexico 1 – Costa Rica 0
The Mexican juggernaut continued with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica, qualifying Mexico for the Hexagonal with two games remaining. Making the difference was Javier Hernandez’s header in the second half. With both sides mired in a scoreless tie at halftime and Mexico looking uncharacteristically sloppy, the Manchester United striker converted in the 61st minute off a perfect cross from Jorge Torres Nilo on the left side.
Mexico (4-0) remains undefeated. Costa Rica (1-2-1) falls to third, but is in contention for the other Hexagonal spot.
El Salvador 3 – Guyana 2
El Salvador ended a three-game losing streak in Qualifying, defeating Guyana 3-2 in Providence with Rafael Burgos tallying the game-winner late in the second half. Guyana got off to a flying start, taking the lead in the first minute from a Gregory Richardson goal. Osael Romero tied the game for El Salvador 10 minutes later on a header. Jaime Alas powered El Salvador into the lead in the 56th minute to make it 2-1. Six minutes later, Guyana responded. Chris Nurse scored from close-range to tie it up, but Burgos slammed home the winner in the 74th minute to give the Salvadorians the win.
El Salvador (1-1-2) is now second in the group, while Guyana (0-3-1) is last but still also has a mathematical chance of advancing.
Panama 2 – Canada 0
Panama catapuled to the top of Group C after defeating Canada 1-0 in Panama City. The game was delayed for 15 minutes shortly after kickoff when the stadium suffered a partial blackout. Once the floodlights came back on, it was Panama who shined. Rolando Blackburn put Panama in the lead in the 38th minute. An insurance goal from Blas Perez in the 57th ended Canada’s chances.
Panama (3-1-0) is now in first place, while Canada (2-1-1) is second in a tie with Honduras.
Honduras 1 – Cuba 0
Honduras knocked Cuba out of World Cup Qualifying with a 1-0 win in San Pedro Sula, but it wasn't easy. The game-winner came after 33 minutes thanks to Jerry Bengston. The New England Revolution star headed the ball into the net with an assist from Roger Espinoza. It was Bengston’s second goal against Cuba in four days.
As a result of the loss, Cuba (0-4) became the first team to be officially eliminated. As for Honduras (2-1-1), the win keeps them in contention.
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