The final round of the CONCACAF qualification process for the 2022 FIFA World Cup got underway last night. All eight remaining teams were in action on Matchday 1, meaning we got four matches to start the round.
Last night was match one of 14 for these teams, so we are not quite at a make or break point for teams hoping to secure qualification. However, the importance of a strong start cannot be understated.
With just three automatic qualifying spots available, every point counts in the CONCACAF Third Round. Here is a recap of the results of the four matches from September 2nd (stats from FotMob).
Canada 1-1 Honduras
It was a tale of two halves in the opening match between Canada and Honduras. Honduras was the fifth and final team to receive a bye into the Third Round, while Canada beat Haiti over two legs to get to this point.
In the first half, Honduras took a lead in the 40th minute when midfielder Alexander Lopez converted a penalty. Canada struck back on 66 minutes when Cyle Larin scored from the spot.
With neither team able to score from open play, a draw is probably a fair result. Canada had 66% of the possession and generated four big chances to Honduras’ one. However, they were not quite able to turn home field advantage into three points.
Panama 0-0 Costa Rica
Costa Rica came into this game as the third team with a bye to the Third Round. Panama snuck by Curaçao in the second round to reach the final eight.
Despite being favored on paper, Costa Rica failed to generate a shot on target on the road against Panama. However, a solid defense led by goalkeeper Keylor Navas held strong to give Los Ticos a point.
Panama had the majority of possession and attempted 18 shots, but it was not enough to break the deadlock.
Mexico 2-1 Jamaica
The lone winners of Matchday 1 were Mexico, who took care of business at home against Jamaica. Both these teams received a bye to this point, so it was a battle of two of the more high profile teams in the region.
Mexico opened the scoring early in the second half through Ernesto Vega. The Reggae Boyz answered 15 minutes later, with Shamar Nicholson converting Jamaica’s only shot on target of the match. Jamaica came close to holding out for a point at Estadio Azteca, but substitute Henry Martin fired home the winner in the 89th minute.
Mexico certainly deserved the three points on the balance of play. El Tri had 73% of the ball, and they attempted 27 shots to Jamaica’s five. Mexico also played well as a team, successfully completing 90% of their passes in the win.
El Salvador 0-0 USA
The final contest of Matchday 1 saw El Salvador hosting a USMNT looking to turn a new leaf in World Cup qualifying. El Salvador reached the Third Round after beating Saint Kitts and Nevis twice in two matches. The USA, on the other hand, received a bye and entered the competition in the Third Round.
Frankly, there was not a whole lot to separate the two sides in the scoreless draw. El Salvador had a slight edge in possession with 51% of the ball. The United States generated more chances, which resulted in the visitors having two shots on target to El Salvador’s one.
The Salvadoran fans packed the Estadio Cuscatlán and created a great atmosphere. Ultimately, they were unable to sing their boys to victory, and the match ended in a deserved draw.
— Concacaf (@Concacaf) September 3, 2021
After Matchday 1, the CONCACAF Third Round standings are extremely tight. Mexico sits in first place with three points, while Jamaica sits in eighth with zero. Everyone else between second and seventh has a point after drawing their opening matches.
The classic formula for success in CONCACAF is to win your home games and fight for draws on the road. If you subscribe to that theory, Honduras, Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States are the teams who have gotten off on the right foot.
Either way, there is still a long way to go before qualifying is all said and done. With the next two rounds of fixtures coming on the fifth and eighth of September, we will have a much clearer picture after Matchday 3.
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