The top 4 teams are emerging in the HEX. The Yanks, The Tico’s. El Tri and Loc Catrachos. The most intriguing game in Round 6 was El Salvador losing 1:0 in Trinidad. Had El Salvador won they would have made the HEX very unpredictable until the end. The loss leaves El Salvador tied for last with the Soca Warriors with only 5 points. The group leaders want to avoid the 4th place finish. They realize an easier path to the World Cup is the automatic qualification as opposed to coming in 4th and entering into a home and away series with a South American power.
Let’s start with the leaders. The Tico's have to start taking the games serious again. They were slaughtered in San Pedro Sula 4:0 against Los Catrachos. Getting beat is one thing in qualifying but the 4:0 ..it seems that the Tico’s defense collapsed. The Tico’s have to correct this issue to stay in the top stop. The good thing for the Tico’s is they return to Saprissa stadium and that God awful field turf. The bad news is they face a very confident Mexican team that is technically savvy to hold the ball and pull off the win. This will be one of the better games watch.
The Tico’s then travel to Central American neighbor El Salvador. This is a great local trip for the Tico’s to assure themselves a spot in South Africa but they can not look past El Tri in San Jose. The next game in Cuscatlan will be very intense with regional bragging rights at stake. We will see just how good the Tico fan’s claim they are. The Tico’s games are the most difficult to predict but I see them getting 4 points here after these 2 games.
The Yanks are also in good shape with 10 points. They play El Salvador in Rio Tinto Stadium then travel to Port of Spain. There is always a question as to the partisan crowd when games are played in big cities like NY, Chicago and LA but Utah will be a very pro USA crowd. Rio Tinto is a brand new stadium that has an intimate feeling with 20,008 capacities. The field is a grass surface so all the European based players will not be bitching about the surface. I see the Yanks playing a very offensive attacking game right from the start. El Salvador has to go into a shell and stay on defense. The longer the Yanks do not score the better for the El Sal. I see the yanks rolling in this game and winning soundly.
The next games yanks go on the road to Port of Spain. This is where they scored the famous goal to propel them to the 1990 World Cup in Italy. They know if they get a win on the road they will virtually assure themselves a World Cup spot. T&T is the most likely place where the Yanks can get their road points. Since the Yanks would have played the week before their game will be much more fluid and decisive in Port of Spain. I see the yanks finally getting a raod win in Port of Spain. Yanks get 6 points with these next 2 games.
Honduras is tied for second place and can smell blood. They next play T&T in San Pedro Sula then travel to Axteca. They just pounded Costa Rica 4:0 and the Soca Warriors are not as good. They will not take their foot off the gas and go all out to get the home win against the Soca Warriors. Honduras has 2 very imposing figures up front in Costly and Pavon and talented midfielders who can slow the game down.
I see them going into Azteca very confident. Honduras knows they can beat Mexico but to do it in the Azteca is a bit more difficult. Honduras will play for the tie in Azteca and hope to get a point on the road. I see Honduras getting 3 points with the next 2 games to keep pace.
Mighty Mexico is back. Mexico has gained tremendous confidence in the last few games. They won the Gold Cup against the Yanks 5:0 then they again beat them 2:1 in Azteca Stadium last week. They will need it since they will be playing the group leaders in Saprissa then travel home to face the second place Honduras team. Saprissa will be a challenge for any team to win. Saprissa Stadium will be loud however Mexico is a team that always faces pressure. They will try to keep the ball just as they played keep away in the Gold Cup. This will keep the Tico’s from advancing on offense and keeping the crowd at bay. This should be a very tight game with a very memorable goal scored.
El Tri then travels back to the confines of Azteca. Here they go on offense and rarely does another team beat them. I see them beating Honduras here to really keep the top 4 teams close on points. I see El Tri getting a home win and possibly a point on the road. 4 point is reasonable.
Like I said El Salvador chance was lost in Round 6 in Trinidad. They only lost 1:0 but they need a point to keep within striking distance. They did not get it and now only have 5 points and have to travel to the States (Utah)then play group leader Costa Rica. I see them losing in the States and losing confidence as the World Cup opportunity slips by.
If they play well in the States they just might beat Costa Rica again. They beat the Tico's in group play in the most recent Gold Cup. They went all out to establish a tone for this huge game in San Salvador. El Salvador will give everything they have for their home fans in Custcatlan Stadium. 50,000 will be screaming at the top of their lungs. If they want to remain the player they have become recently and to do this they have to win at home. I only see them getting 1 point over the next 2 games.
T&T travels to Honduras and will have to get very opportunistic goals. I do not see them winning here however they have added 2 new players. These players could be just what T&T needs for confidence to win. San Pedro Sula is a very difficult place to play so T&T will rely on the long ball here.
After this game the get the Yanks in Port of Spain where they have already beat them 2:1 in World Cup qualifying in October 2008. I do not see T&T winning in San Pedro Sula so they will hold back on their offense until they return to Port of Spain. I do not see T&T getting any points here so any points will surprise me. By the way I love how the Soca Warriors play the game. They are tactically sound with talented players on offense. They attack the weakest part of the opponents defense and they do not play the thuggery game most home teams deploy. That said....I always have to question Jack Warner and the angles he has to make money. He has been out of the spot light which is good for CONCACAF and great for T&T.
All this being said I see the top four creating distance between the bottom 2. The Yanks will get an automatic spot. Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras will try to avoid the dreaded 4th place finish. Since I see the Yanks and Honduras winning their home games easily. The big games to determine the 4th place finisher will be played in San Jose (CR vs Mex) and Mexico City (Mex-Hon). These will be historic games so stay tuned.
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