With Costa Rica and the United States qualified for the next World Cup, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Jamaica are playing for their last opportunities to take part in the Brazilian festivity in 2014.
The Concacaf (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) awards three and a half spots to attend the World Cup: the first three places proceed directly and the fourth place would participate in a playoff game against New Zealand.
The picture is painted differently for each of the participants, who must play perfect games in order to maintain their chances intact.
Mexico vs Panama
Mexico is known as the Concacaf giant. It is the country with the most qualifications to the World Cup but is nonetheless about to be eliminated after a disastrous season in which it has barely won one (away) game and has failed to win at the legendary Estadio Azteca, formerly a headache for visiting teams.
Mexico will play its possibilities before Panama, a team that has never managed to qualify for a World Cup and is barely competing for the second time in hexagonal standings. Panama is tied with Mexico in points (8), but unlike the “Tri”, Panama can boast about having its best race to the World Cup (in the other hexagonal standings that Panama participated in, it could barely get two points).
Panama has an uphill battle ahead; on the two occasions it has visited the Estadio Azteca, it ended up destroyed (7-1 and 5-0). Nevertheless, it is enjoying a brief period of hope, based on Mexico being unable to beat Panama the last four times they came face to face (two ties and two victories [es] for the Panamanians).
“Se puede sacar un buen resultado si hacemos las cosas bien. Honduras ya demostró que se les puede ganar en su casa. Es un partido crucial, pero hay que estar tranquilos y pensar en positivo. Se puede lograr la clasificación en el Azteca”, remata. No sería matemático pero un buen resultado en la cancha del Tri daría un impulso tremendo a los canaleros en el camino a Brasil.
“We can get a good result if we do things right. Honduras already proved that we can beat them on their home field. It is a crucial game, but we have to be calm and think positively. We can qualify at the Azteca,” he concludes. It would not be mathematical, but a good result on the Tri field would give a tremendous boost to the Panamanians en route to Brazil.
On his Twitter account, Mexican journalist David Faitelson posted a stark analysis of the game, where Mexico, by tradition and hierarchy in the area, should impose itself on a growing Panama, being the only country of the six participants that has never qualified for a World Cup:
Si no eres capaz de ganarle a Panamá en un viernes por la noche en el Azteca, mejor haz planes para dedicarte a otra cosa. #fb
— David Faitelson (@Faitelson_ESPN) October 9, 2013
If you are not capable of beating Panama on a Friday night at the Azteca, you're better off dedicating yourself to something else.
Álvaro Martínez is confident that the optimism reflected in Panamanian fans could be a reflection of Friday's results:
— Álvaro Martínez (@duroalhueso) October 9, 2013
Official: 84.8% of Panamanians believe that the national team can bring the #Aztecazo [beat Mexico at the Azteca stadium]. There is positivity in 3.5 million people.
Panama has sought all kinds of support to arrive at this game in the best way possible, including having “summoned” three great national figures to cheer on the players, as Univisión [es] states:
Rubén Blades, Roberto Durán y Mariano Rivera son las principales inspiraciones panameñas. De ellos, el recién retirado lanzador de los Yankees es esperado en la concentración del equipo canalero en cualquier momento del cierre del Hexagonal para incrementar los niveles de motivación.
“Hasta el momento el jugador convocado es Mariano Rivera, para cerrar el partido”, bromeó el entrenador Julio Dely la semana pasada, ante una pregunta sobre su lista de foráneos.
Rubén Blades, Roberto Durán, and Mariano Rivera are the main Panamanian inspirations. Of them, the recently retired Yankees pitcher is expected to visit the Panamanian team at any given moment during the Hexagonal closing to increase levels of motivation.
“As of now, the player we have summoned is Mariano Rivera,” trainer Julio Dely joked last week responding to a question about his list of players who play abroad.
Singer Rubén Blades accompanied the national team and sang “Patria”, which is considered by some a second Panamanian national anthem, with them.
Fanny Cardoze shares a photo of the singer with the footballers.
— FANNY CARDOZE (@fannycardoze) October 7, 2013
Rubén Blades With the National Team!!! Great motivation for our players!
The truth is that on Friday, October 11, Panama and Mexico will take to the field and play for the possibility of making it to the World Cup. The team that loses the game is basically eliminated, while a tie favors Panamanians, who have a better goal difference.
Honduras vs Costa Rica
On Friday, Honduras is welcoming the already qualified Costa Rican national team in San Pedro Sula. The game has dramatic indications as Honduras needs a win to ensure third place, but games between “ticos” (Costa Ricans) and “catrachos” (Hondurans) are always high voltage and is considered a “classic match of Central American football”
Costa Rica, despite having qualified, has the odds of three other teams (Panama, Mexico, and Honduras) in its results, although according to the words of Luis Marín for El Universal [es], they aspire to occupy first place in the qualifications (they are now in second, after the United States):
‘En este momento no pensamos en lo que beneficia o no a Honduras, a Panamá o a México, estamos pensando en nosotros y en buscar la primera posición’, declaró en conferencia de prensa Luis Marín, asistente del seleccionador, el colombiano Jorge Luis Pinto.
‘At this time we are not thinking of what is beneficial or not for Honduras, Panama, or Mexico, we are thinking about ourselves and seeking first place’ Luis Marín, assistant coach to Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto, said at a press conference.
Nonetheless, Honduras is playing at home and only needs one win (and a tie between Panama and Mexico) to ensure its consecutive participation in the World Cup and the third in its history. ‘Pase al vacío’ remembers these possibilities:
Si el viernes, Honduras le gana a Costa Rica, y México y Panamá empatan, los hondureños estarán en #Brasil2014
— PaseAlVacio (@PaseAlVacio) October 9, 2013
If Honduras wins against Costa Rica on Friday, and Mexico and Panama tie, the Hondurans will be in Brazil 2014
After Friday's games, we will get a clearer glimpse into who will go to Brazil and if Central America will send three participants to the World Cup for the first time.