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Little drama for United States in Friday’s World Cup qualifier … but would you look at Mexico!

Oct 9, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT

Jermaine Jones

Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Kansas City will come and go with plenty of conversation opportunities for Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team – but with all the drama of a PBS news hour.

On the other hand, can we talk about Mexico? Our neighbors to the south are in a real Brazilian pickle. They are in more trouble than Alex Rodriguez strapped into a lie detector seat, their World Cup hopes in more dire jeopardy of extinction than a moment of sanity in Washington, D.C.

The real drama during Friday’s round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers will be at Azteca Stadium, the former smoggy fortress where Mexico has yet to win a match in final round qualifying for Brazil 2014. Scoreless ties against the Jamaica, the United States and Costa Rica may have left Mexico’s bid on the skids … but they started looking positively bountiful once El Tri lost in Mexico City last month, 2-1 to Honduras.

Soon enough, Chepo De La Torre was out and Victor Manuel Vucetich was tasked with pulling this rickety old van out of the ditch. So here it is: if Vucetich’s team cannot beat Panama this Friday at what promises to be a very nervous Estadio Azteca, that just might be it. They could miss the World Cup for the first time since 1990 (when player eligibility shenanigans saw Mexico booted from World Cup qualifying efforts).

It’s not going to be easy. Panama hasn’t been what we all thought in the final round. But any team with real defensive commitment (check) and a determined, talented, bulldog of a goal scorer (check … Blas Perez) has a chance. The Panamanians most definitely have a chance to navigate a draw, and then go hunting for the final, telling points in the finale in Central America against the United States. (Make that, “injured and potentially less motivated” United States.)

(MORE: Why you might WANT Mexico at the World Cup)

Panama will certainly dig in Friday at Estadio Azteca, looking to create through Perez on the counter and on restarts, and they will be awfully tough to beat.

Veteran goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa says it can be done, noting a freshness and a “new vibe” thanks to the recent managerial comeuppance. Here is his interview with FIFA.com.

To get you further up to speed on the Mexican pinch – should we coin something like the “Mexican Mess?” Or perhaps go with “El Tri Trauma?” … Gee, this is rather fun, isn’t it? – here is Kyle McCarthy’s swell analysis on the roster choices ahead for the qualifiers Friday and then next week at Costa Rica.

(MORE: The tantalizing scenario developing between U.S., Mexico)

Remember, by the way, Mexico is probably targeting noting better than fourth place; the United States and Costa Rica have qualified, and Honduras has a much better pathway to the third and final automatic berth for Brazil out of CONCACAF. That leaves Mexico and Panama to fight it out for fourth and the playoff series with New Zealand in November.

I still contend that the World Cup is better with Mexico in it. And I still fear for the CONCACAF allotment at future World Cups if El Tri doesn’t scrap its way to Brazil. That said, it’s a real hoot watching all this unfold, eh?

(MORE: New Zealand hedging on Mexico finishing fourth in CONCACAF qualifying)

Here are the current CONCACAF final round standings:

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  1. danielofthedale - Oct 9, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    I think there could be some real drama for the USA game. I know I am in the small minority of fans that care about getting into the Seeded Pot for the World Cup Draw and that think we can. The Top 7 Teams plus Brazil in the FIFA rankings after these last two round of WCQ games will get the seeds. The US still can reach that mark with two wins and a good bit of help. There are five teams that the US watch in terms of being able to pass or jump us and they are Colombia, Holland, Croatia, England, and Switzerland.The results we need from them to get into the Top 7 are as follows:

    Colombia must draw or loss their last two games
    Holland must draw or loss one of their last games
    Croatia must draw or loss to Belgium
    England must draw or loss one of their last two games
    Switzerland must draw or loss their last games

    Admittedly the odds of all these games breaking our way are not very good but they are not zero either.

    • danielofthedale - Oct 9, 2013 at 6:53 PM

      The US could also jump past Belgium if it Draws Croatia and Lost to Wales but a loss to Wales seems to far fetched to really factor in. But if it does go that way then one of the other can go against us and still crack the Top 7 non-Brazil teams.

  2. talgrath - Oct 9, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    If Panama can tie Mexico, I think they’re in and Mexico is out. I don’t think Mexico can win against Costa Rica away and Panama might tie or beat the USMNT at home; even if everything remaining for both teams end in a tie, Panama is through on the tie-breaker (goals). This next game is must win for Mexico, make no mistake, and even then going through isn’t a guarantee unless they can also at least tie Costa Rica away.

  3. bruiserbrigade - Oct 9, 2013 at 10:44 PM

    I have a feeling Mexico is about to go on a tear, starting with Panama.

  4. hildezero - Oct 10, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    That’s what the Mexico fans and media said when they fired De La Torre.

  5. braxtonrob - Oct 10, 2013 at 3:47 AM

    All I know is if Mexico qualifying means their will be (any amount of) sanity in D.C., then I’m the BIGGEST Mexico fan in the WORLD.

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