Former Manchester City and England Manager Sven Goran Eriksson and Cuauhtemoc Blanco discuss strategy/Reuters photo
The first matchday of group play in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying brought us some outstanding football and some great escapes most notably by Mexico whose performance against Honduras at Estadio Azteca left little to be desired for seventy minutes. El Tri’s North London pair of Gio Dos Santos and Carlos Vela looked out of their depth and over their head in the match. Manager Sven Goran Eriksson had to use all three substitutions by minute 70 as Honduras stood on the cusp of a massive upset. The insertion of veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco who had been frozen out of the setup by Mexico’s last two manager transformed the match and Mexico escaped with a 2-1 victory. Playing a key role for Honduras in their establishment of the 1-0 lead and solid play was Wigan’s Wilson Palacios.
The United States had a great 1-0 victory on the road in Guatemala City. I’ve seen some commentary by those who don’t understand the CONCACAF region describing the US performance as “woeful.” This characterization cannot be further from what I consider the truth as Everton’s Tim Howard made several saves in what was a very well set up tactical approach by Bob Bradley, the US Manager. Former Fulham, Leeds and Derby County midfielder Eddie Lewis played a critical role for the United States before being virtually assaulted and injured around minute 60. Former Fulham defender Carlos Bocanegra scored the US goal on a header served from a DaMarcus Beasley corner. Beasley currently with Rangers formerly played for Manchester City.
Jamaica Manager Rene Simoes made the very controversial decision last week to drop Marlon King of Hull City. But the Reggee Boys got a critical point on the road in Toronto against a Canadian side who now must rally to have any chance of advancing out of the group. Paul Stalteri of Spurs (although I believe he may have been loaned out somewhere) captained the Canadian side.
Trinidad and Tobago used a side made up largely of players in America’s second division (USL) and Leagues one and two to defeat Cuba on the road 3-1. Costa Rica struggled with El Salvador 1-0 but escaped with a win.