By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
That sound you didn’t hear Tuesday night was Mexico efficiently taking care of business, making a goal from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez stand up in its 1-0 win over Costa Rica in Mexico City.
The win gave Mexico a two-game sweep over the Ticos and put El Tri into the final round of qualifying for the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Mexico has two matches left to play in the current qualifying round – at Guyana and at home for El Salvador – but those games won’t change Mexico’s place in the Group B standings.
Mexico will win the group when play ends in mid-October with at least 12 points from four wins in four matches, even if it loses its last two matches. Impressive, but expected. Now Mexico will be one of six teams from CONCACAF to play for three automatic berths in Brazil.
Mexico solidified its status as the best national team in North America. Only a total collapse will keep El Tri from Brazil. There seems to be a new star making a big play each night in games that really matter. Tuesday night, it was Jorge Torres Nilo making the pass to Chicharito for the winning goal.
Nevertheless, 12 points from four wins in group play is impressive. Now Mexico can look at some other lineup combinations for their last two group matches, give some players a chance to remain with their club teams and observe from afar what team from its group will join it in the final qualifying round.
It will likely be either El Salvador or Costa Rica. The El Salvador-Costa Rica match on Oct. 12 will be critical for both teams.
Panama took three points from Canada Tuesday night and took over the Group C lead with nine points. Canada and Honduras are tied for second place with seven, and those two teams play each other in San Pedro Sula on Oct. 16 with a spot in the final round at stake for both teams.
Canada has some good Major League Soccer players. If it can somehow get into the final round, the Canadians could make a push for a World Cup spot.
Assuming Mexico will win the final round and advance to Brazil, the U.S. figured to be the No. 2 team from CONCACAF to make the World Cup. But that isn’t a given, even if Herculez Gomez refused to let his team lose Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio.
Gomez fired a free kick past Jamaica’s goalkeeper in the 55th minute, long after the U.S. had missed a number of other great opportunities to take the lead, and the Americans made that 1-0 lead stand in victory.
So Group A has three teams tied with seven points from four matches. Of the U.S., Guatemala and Jamaica, only two teams will get to the final round.
The schedule appears to benefit the Americans. They are on the road at last-place Antigua and Barbuda, then home to face Guatemala with a chance to either win the group or advance as the No. 2 team.
Expect the six teams to advance to final qualifying to be, including Mexico, as follows: USA, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama and Canada or Honduras. That would mean that either Canada or Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda and Cuba will be eliminated.
We’ll check back on Oct. 17.