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CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Honduras want to wrap up third, Mexico and Panama desperate to slip in

Oct 11, 2013, 9:14 AM EDT

Hernandez of Mexico reacts after missing a chance to score against Costa Rica during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Mexico City Reuters

There’s just two matches left in the Hexagonal, but that doesn’t mean there’s no more drama. Sure, the United States have qualified, so there’s little to fret about regarding their match with bottom-dwellers Jamaica (although the match presents plenty of opportunities for the USMNT before they travel to Brazil). Costa Rica, too, have qualified with two games to spare. But there’s still that third placed slot, the one that leads directly to the World Cup, and fourth-place, which requires a win over New Zealand to get to Brazil.

Here’s where the drama comes in: two spots, four contenders. Honduras currently occupy the third spot, the last that can take a country directly to the World Cup. They seem relatively safe, but with two games left, their three point lead over both Panama and Mexico looks a bit too narrow, particularly considering they face Costa Rica on Friday night. A win, however, combined with a draw between Mexico and Panama, sees Honduras buying tickets to Brazil.

Jamaica could still, technically, slip in to that playoff spot, but they’ll have to beat both the United States and Honduras, and hope that Panama and Mexico play out a draw. If that happens, and Panama lose to the U.S., and Mexico lose to Costa Rica, Jamaica will have staged a wonderful comeback and will just need to beat New Zealand to reach Brazil.

CONCACAF Matches (Friday, October 11)

Honduras vs. Costa Rica (5 p.m. ET)

If Honduras want to keep their hold on third place, they really need more than a point in San Pedro Sula. Sure, it’s just Jamaica in the final round, and Los Catrachos can likely make it to Brazil with just four points. But do they really want to put that sort of pressure on themselves? If Honduras can secure a win, and Mexico vs. Panama ends in a draw, the Catrachos are through. But there’s an added complication: Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto has declared his intention to finish first in the Hex, stating that he will not treat these last two matches as mere friendlies, but instead as a warm up to the World Cup.

United States vs. Jamaica (6:30 p.m. ET)

Don’t worry, United States supporters — Steve Davis has you covered with an excellent, in-depth preview on the opportunities the USMNT has to fine-tune and perfect its game in the match against Jamaica. There will be more to follow from Kansas City as we count down the hours to kick off.

 Mexico vs. Panama (9:30 p.m. ET)

Definitely the big match in CONCACAF qualifying. Both sides are going to need to go full out: a draw, plus a win for Honduras, leaves them fighting for the spoils of fourth place. Mexico have lost their last two, but new coach Victor Manuel Vucetich is determined to reverse that trend. He hasn’t recalled Carlos Vela, despite his performances with Real Sociedad, but he’s brought in playmaker Lucas Lobos and recalled Rafa Marquez and Guillermo Memo Ochoa. Panama, meanwhile, will be looking to emulate Honduras by getting a win at the Azteca in Mexico City. The Canaleros beat Mexico twice in the Gold Cup this summer, and are hoping that the third time’s a charm as they continue to chase the dream of reaching their first World Cup.

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