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Mexico survives; tears for Panama; Honduras, Costa Rica and United States get results in regional World Cup qualifying

Oct 15, 2013, 11:49 PM EDT

Bolanos of Costa Rica fights for the ball with Layun of Mexico during their 2014 World Cup qualifying match in San Jose

For about 10 minutes, the region was absolutely turned on its head, mad as some barnyard critter. Panama’s dreamy visions of a first World Cup berth were alive and kicking thanks to a lead over the United States down in rainy Panama City.

Mexico, so talented, so heavily favored to rule the region as final round qualifying started earlier this year, was on the brink of the unthinkable, missing its first World Cup since 1990 while going down meekly on a rainy night in Costa Rica.

And then it really got weird …

Goals by two U.S. men, Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson, put the heart paddles (Clear!) on Mexico’s World Cup heartbeat. Imagine that … the United States riding heroically to Mexico’s rescue!

All three final matches in CONCACAF final round World Cup qualifying were playing out dramatically at the same time, all with something to say about who did and did not go to Brazil next summer. (How much do simultaneous kickoffs rock!)

Here’s the quick look at how the CONCACAF region finished. More to come at ProSoccerTalk:

United States 3, at Panama 2: The United States finished with a late win, shattering Panamanian hearts as Zusi, scoring in his second consecutive World Cup qualifier, timed his run into the penalty area and clinically headed in Brad Davis’ cross from the left.  Johannsson’s swell strike made the final score 3-2, but it was that tying goal that made the difference.

Panama needed a clear victory in order to take fourth place away from Mexico.

(MORE: How the historically dramatic night unfolded, as told through social media)

at Costa Rica 2, Mexico 1:  The insanity of it! Mexico couldn’t get the job done and needed – check that; “desperately needed” – help from its most bitter rival just to get into a playoff for a spot in Brazil.

It looked like madness at times in San Jose, Costa Rica. Visiting Mexico was desperate for a result. Costa Rica, its place at World Cup 2014 secure, was free to play loose, but driven by the opportunity to potentially bounce the longtime regional bully right out of Brazilian contention.

Bryan Ruiz set the entire region alight with his early goal, as the Fulham man spun inside the Mexican penalty area to set the home crowds on fire in two countries, there and in Panama.

Mexico equalized, but Alvaro Saborio’s uncontested header put the Ticos up in the 64th minute. Rafa Marquez, recalled somewhat inexplicably into the team, was all kinds of lost when he should have been marking Saborio.

The Mexicans threatened here and there but, let’s be honest: El Tri barely deserves to be here. They are lucky to remain alive in this competition, with little heart about it all and even less creativity in its attack.

The home-and-away playoff for a spot in Brazil will be in November.

Honduras 2, at Jamaica 2: Congrats to Los Catrachose, a small country that keeps accomplishing big things in soccer. A draw in Kingston – never mind those nervous moments at the end of this one – puts Honduras into a second consecutive World Cup.

Automatic berths from CONCACAF, therefore, go to:

  • United States
  • Costa Rica
  • Honduras

The region’s fourth-place playoff spot (for a home-and-away series with New Zealand):

  • Mexico
  1. midtec2005 - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    Oh my god.

    I actually screamed when Zusi scored.

    drama

  2. rphillish - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:53 PM

    Let’s be honest. We were all a little bit more excited for that second Panama goal than the following two US goals.
    Mexico aside, Panama has been a really fun underdog to follow all year. It’s a real shame they had to go out the way they did.

    • stmiller02 - Oct 16, 2013 at 2:56 AM

      It’s sad really. Panama deserved to go far more than Mexico. The headline leading to this article on MSNBC.com actually said “Mexico keeps its WC hopes alive”. I was thinking it didn’t keep them alive…others kept it alive for them.

      At what point do these articles stop saying that El Tri’s roster is stacked with talent, but bad coaching is the problem. At what point is it the player’s fault? U-anything talented teams do not guarantee senior success. Look up the history of that.

  3. mknow406a - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    At the end of the day, it all came down to a single moment of brilliance from Mexico that Panama simply could not match…

    • mknow406a - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:30 AM

      LOL. You don’t have to like it, but it is the truth. :)

  4. hildezero - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    Oh my god! What an exciting soccer day.

  5. Andrew Marcinko - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:10 AM

    Reblogged this on –Footy America–.

  6. mikeevergreen - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:14 AM

    Congratulations to Honduras, and they have MLS to thank, as a significant number of their roster either plays there, or used to.

    • marioguevara1 - Oct 18, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      As an hondurian, i have to rebuttal that, honduras doesn’t have to thank anyone for their achievements, we are born with talent, we have soccer in our blood and as a small country futbol is all we have there its our religion there ! :-) Now first of all you’re wrong not most of our players play for the mls only four do , the rest play on teams in the hondurian league and we have like five that play international one in the bpl another in liga bbva so youre statement makes no sense !

  7. yankeepunk3000 - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    I almost lost hope when Panama took the lead but Mexico will get a chance to stay alive in a month. Still even though my family’s from there its hard to think this team can go far realistically. With 10 minutes to go Mexico seemed to just give up. Never really went on the attack by then and I guess were hoping USA would come through. I understand Costa Rica was playing tight but still. Also costs Rica looks tough as hell going into the world cup my god do they have quick footed players. Mexico had a hard time catching up!

  8. footballer4ever - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    I am a USMNT fan , followed them and watch their matches often, but I can’t stand them right now. Freaking pissed off at them.

    • braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:41 AM

      You ACTUALLY expected them to throw the game? ? ?

      You’re forcing me to assume you never played competitively.

      • footballer4ever - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:44 AM

        not to throw the game away, but they did not need to win either. Trust me, under the same circumstances, Mexico would not hesitate to leave the USA out if it meant leaving them out of the WC.

      • braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:48 AM

        “not to throw the game away, but they did not need to win either.”

        I’m pretty sure that’s the same thing (by my definition anyway).

        Also, why do I get the feeling your theory (about Mexico’s lack of integrity) is going to be tested on us (USA) someday.

      • footballer4ever - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        @ braxtonrob

        It will happen. Mexicans are of short memory, resentful and will do that. You don’t have to wait for that to ever happen. During the GC final, the thrashing the US got and the way they behaved and talked crap and even had the celebrations fully in spanish in an US stadium was shameful……..I am hispanic, and not even I approve of that.

      • braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:58 AM

        That GC was pretty frickin’ awful! I’ll give you that.

    • mdac1012 - Oct 16, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      Expecting a team to not try to win is an absurd statement, I find it a little hard to believe you even posted the thought. If it was even suspected for a second that Klinnsman didn’t try to win the game or instructed his players to play for a tie, he should be removed as manager immediately.

      What are you afraid of anyway? If we learned anything during this qualifying period, it’s that Mexico was the most overrated team coming in.

  9. braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:34 AM

    “simultaneous kick-offs” do NOT “rock”, I only have two eyeballs!

  10. footballer4ever - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:40 AM

    If it means extending Mexico’s misery just to have New Zealand upset then, then so be it!

    • braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:45 AM

      I like it better this way, because Mexico (and I’m sure their fans will be the first to admit) will have no one to blame but themselves if they lose to New Zealand.

      And, … I’m having a hard time picturing New Zealand losing.
      Then again, if this were poker, Mexico would be Matt Damon, “kids got alligator blood!” “Check (Draw) Check (Draw) Check (Draw)” …… Lol

    • mknow406a - Oct 16, 2013 at 1:17 AM

      I don’t get this assumption that Mexico will beat New Zealand. “What is the logic underlying that conclusion??!?!” They have struggled throughout the entire Hex and have struggled mightily at Azteca. (It’s kind of like France complaining about the seeding method after the fact… Note to France, don’t lose friendlies to Brazil, Uruguay and Japan and draw qualifiers 0-0 with Georgia… You’d be AMAZED at what that could do for your rankings! It’s no longer 1998, you actually need to EARN your place!) Mexico, as of right now, is going to have to scrap and fight just to get in… it’s not going to be a “gimme” by any stretch!

  11. jucam1 - Oct 16, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    And all this shows is once again why Mexico and the US won’t ever win a WC…. When you struggle to beat Panama, when Jamaica is a “challenge”, when people think Jozy A. Is an actual world class striker then goes to the EPL and is a disaster that cost a manager his job, etc, etc, etc. I have said it for a couple of decades about Mexico and more recently about the US. Ask CONMEMBOL to join. They can’t say no due to massive revenues you will bring. Until then, these 2 countries will always get in and always get knocked out in the qualifying stage of second round because they can’t hang with the giants of Europe and South America who have to develop great players to play against the best competition in the world. Until then, it’s going to be awesome seeing tiny countries like Honduras get in and be happy to just be there and European and SA teams with strong squads and tested players win the Cup with zero competition from huge nations like the US and Mexico because they aren’t battle tested with the best before they get there and are owned. But “great” to be there I guess is good if thats all that matters

    • rphillish - Oct 16, 2013 at 1:28 AM

      What crawled up your rear end and died?
      I mean by that reasoning, the World Cup should be an 8 team tournament.

    • mknow406a - Oct 16, 2013 at 1:41 AM

      Seriously?!?!? Have you even watched a Sunderland match? When all four midfielders’ first thought is that any time you get within 40 yards of frame, you take a strike, you ain’t going to win. That is not on Jozy. Don’t get me wrong. I was very disappointed in the way Jozy continued to stray off-sides tonight. There wasn’t a trap, he was just not paying attention to where the last defender was on more than one off-side call tonight! But to blame Altidore for Di Canio’s mess, come on dude… Jozy had NO input on the major lack of signing of midfielders that could provide service and linkage. Nobody has ever (realistically) said the US will win in 2014… but, there ain’t many countries that have won the Cup, and ONLY one will win it in Brazil. As long as we are making solid progress, which with Bedoya in the back four and Johansson in the midfield(?) and yet we STILL managed to get a win via 2 goals in extra time, we are a LONG ways ahead of where we were four years ago as far as depth… and that’s all we can realistically expect and hope for at this point… just… keeping… moving… forward!!!!!

    • nappy25 - Oct 16, 2013 at 5:23 AM

      Who the hell said the US will win a WC? Just trying to get some replies eh? Well, mission accomplished.

      • braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 5:51 PM

        If you use the “t” word, so help me, I’m gonna come out of your screen and Smack you.

    • schmutzdeck - Oct 16, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      jucam1

      “And all this shows is once again why Mexico and the US won’t ever win a WC…. I have said it for a couple of decades about Mexico and more recently about the US. Ask CONMEMBOL to join. They can’t say no due to massive revenues you will bring. Until then, these 2 countries will always get in and always get knocked out in the qualifying stage of second round because they can’t hang with the giants of Europe and South America who have to develop great players to play against the best competition in the world. “

      Jucam,

      World Cup winners:
      Brazil, 5, Italy, 4, Germany, 3, Argentina, 2, Uruguay, 2 Spain, 1, France, 1, England1
      There have been 19 World Cup tournaments. Only eight countries have ever won a World Cup.

      There are a lot of national teams who are better right now than both Mexico and the US. And those teams are likely to remain better than Mexico and the US in the near future.
      And most of them will probably never win a World Cup at least in your lifetime.

      The countries I am talking about have a larger pool of players who are as talented and experienced if not more so than their Mexican and US equivalents.
      This is because they have their young players developed in a wide variety of “football factories”, locally or abroad, who then send on their product to the big clubs that play in the best competitions in the world on a regular basis. Those clubs further develop the product into the best players in the world.
      The more of those you have on your national team, the more likely you are to win things. Brazil or Spain could probably both produce at least two 11 man lineups better than anything either the US or Mexico can come up with. It doesn’t mean they are unbeatable but it does make beating them very hard.
      If you were to honestly list the best outfield players in the world, I doubt there is an American or a Mexican in the top 100. And if you had a similar list for goalkeepers I doubt there is an American or Mexican in the top 15.
      In the case of the US only Jermaine Jones is a regular player (and that is under threat) for a club that could be considered any kind of Champion’s league contender.

      And now you want the US to join CONMEBOL. This is a very weak minded idea.

      The USMNT is getting stronger because they have more talented players than they have ever had. This is a direct result of soccer becoming increasingly more mainstream, more popular than it has ever been. There are now more resources to develop kids who want to make a living playing soccer.
      MLS has been around now for a while and there are also more American kids who are going abroad to develop. Part of that is because foreign clubs are more aware of the potential benefits of developing American talent.
      A large part of this is due to the awareness brought on by the US consistently qualifying for the World Cup and, for the most part, showing well. My guess is, in this country, this probably brings more attention to the game than any other single thing.
      Therefore failure to qualify most likely would have severe negative consequences for the health of the game in this country. Even if the US showed well in the CONMEBOL qualifying tournament it is unlikely to carry over to the next World Cup qualifying tournament because the four year gap insures that you will most likely have to start pretty much from scratch.

      Qualifying from CONCACAF is comparatively easy not so much because the competition is weak but because of the 3 auto qualified + 1 playoff slot format.

      There are more than a few strong European teams who would leap at a chance to have such a format.

      You have to look no further than Mexico, who has been atrociously embarrassing the entire Hex, ten games, to see how forgiving a format it really is.

      In another cycle or two maybe the US will be strong enough to compete in CONMEBOL and have it benefit the US’ game but not now.

  12. Andrew Marcinko - Oct 16, 2013 at 1:55 AM

    Player Grades are up FootyAmerica.com

  13. hildezero - Oct 16, 2013 at 2:42 AM

    @braxtonrob,
    XD You’re really ignorant. Just admit it that you didn’t check your numbers.

    • braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      @hildezero, First off, you’re posting a comment on the wrong article. Second, (LoL) you’re STILL wrong, lol. I believe you said, (paraphrasing) “Mexico had to win”. Well, … they LOST, and they’ve advanced to the playoff.

      [I honestly don't know how else I can tell you about this. As I said, (next time), check the numbers (aka, the TABLE).]

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