USA vs. Mexico: 0 – 0
El Tri hasn’t had a good start to the hexagonal, drawing three times so far in the fourth round of the World Cup qualifiers.
Although the team was expected to be in scoring form yesterday after Chicharito scored two goals against Honduras in San Pedro Sula last Friday, the 1-2 combo of Chicharito and Giovanni dos Santos wasn’t enough for a goal last night. As in San Pedro Sula, the match in Mexico City ended in a draw — only this time, 0-0.
For Team USA, the 0-0 draw will be chalked up as a semi-victory, considering their star goalie Tim Howard sat out with a back injury and star striker Landon Donavon sat with, well, because he felt like it. Plus, Tuesday’s match marks only the second point that the Americans have taken in a World Cup qualifier in Mexico since 1997.
Mexico’s defense suffocated the visitors, allowing Mexico to control the ball for much of the game. Team USA rarely threatened Mexican keeper Memo Ochoa for the first 60-odd minutes.
Mexico’s possession advantage led to plenty of chances for El Tri, and Mexico earned three corner kicks after the 90th minute, but the ball was either too high, too wide, or an American player ultimately managed to head it away.
The point puts the Americans in third place with a total of four and only one point behind the group leader, Panama. Mexico, however, is now in fifth place with three points and only a point ahead of dead last Jamaica.
Things are looking too good for either side, as both teams are regularly expected to earn their spots in the World Cup with relatively ease.
But, as one Univsion announcer put it, “the hexagonal is still young,” and it’s simply too close to call at this point.
Spain vs. France: 1 – 0
In the most highly anticipated match of the week (outside North America), faltering Spain took on group leader and perennial rival France at the Stade de France yesterday afternoon. Only a tad less lackluster than the USA-Mexico match, Tuesday’s meeting between these two European titans was more about bragging rights.
France had overtaken Spain in the standings after La Furia Roja tied 1-1 against Finland at home on Friday.
“We have won three very important points,” Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque told reporters. “It has justified our ideas and convictions.”
Spain hasn’t lost a World Cup qualifier since 1993 (50 matches in total), though many fans were beginning to doubt after the 1-1 draw against Finland.
Those doubts were laid to rest when Pedro practically walked in a cross from Nacho Monreal in the 58th minute.
For its part, France saw plenty of chances to leave the field with a victory, though, like Mexico a few hours later, nothing seemed to pan out for Les Bleus.
While they’re safely in third place with 10 points (one point behind Spain and six points ahead of Georgia), the French are hoping not to repeat their last World Cup performance, when an uncalled handball by Thierry Henry got France into the tournament and a chain of debacles got them out of it.
Honduras vs. Panama: 0 – 2
While not as followed as the USA-Mexico match, perhaps the most important match of the week (as far as CONCACAF is concerned) was between Honduras and Panama.
Los catrachos traveled to Panama City on Tuesday at the top of the group, having beaten Team USA and tied with El Tri 2-2. Panama was coming off two draws, one with Costa Rica and the other with Jamaica.
Anyone expecting a long tug-o-war soon saw their hopes deflated after hometown hero Luis Tejada scored Panama’s first goal in the second minute.
Besides putting Honduras in a rough spot, the early goal also made Tejada Panama’s all-time international scorer (with 34 goals) and its all-time World Cup qualifying scorer (with 10).
Honduras nearly found the equalizer with a header from its clutch striker, Carlos Costly, but the ball callously bounced off the crossbar.
The nail in the coffin came with a second Panamanian goal in the 75th minute by Blas Perez, his 29th international goal for the canaleros.
Panama goes on to play El Tri on June 6, the same day that los catrachos face rival Costa Rica.
Those will be must-win games for everyone involved.
So only one question remains: how fast can June get here?
[Photo: SeÃ±or Codo via Flickr]