Mexico-Costa Rica 7pm ET, TELEMUNDO
Sven Goran Eriksson’s seat could not get any hotter. Published reports in the Mexican media indicate the FMF would have already sacked the Swede if not for the exorbitant salary buyout the Federation would be forced to pay for any early firing.
Gio Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Rafa Marquez and Carlos Salcido are all out for Mexico whether by injury or suspension. The Ticos are the only tea this decade to win as an away side at Estadio Azteca, but this Costa Rican team is weaker than those that went through qualifying for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Nonetheless, Sven’s baffling decisions continue: leaving out Zinha while recalling Edgar Castillio smacks of blindly throwing a bunch of darts on the dart board and seeing which one hits the target.
Still, arguably the most talented side in the Confederation, El Tri has suffered from three years of mismanagement since Ricardo LaVolpe’s sacking as well as a increasingly dysfunctional and greedy Federation. Mexico may win this match but then has to travel to Honduras to face a side without David Suazo but high on confidence especially at home.
Costa Rica is far from the talent level of Mexico or the US or Honduras for that matter. But Manager Rodrigo Kenton has done a credible job since replacing Ticos legend Hernan Medford last Summer and Costa Rica is very capable of getting a draw here.
Prediction: Mexico 2 Costa Rica 1
Trinidad and Tobago-Honduras NO US TV
Honduras received an injury blow of monumental proportions earlier this week when Benfica’s David Suazo was ruled out for several months.Amado Guevara and Carlos Costly will be forced to take on an increased attacking burden. For T&T with Dwight Yorke suspended,Francisco Maturana will not have his most experienced and internationally savvy player for this critical qualifier.
Both sides will be desperate after leaving points on the table in the first match of the Hexagonal. T&T blew a two goal lead late in El Salvador, while Honduras lost a match where they dominated large portions of evening versus Costa Rica. The physically and athletic nature of Cornell Glen and Stern John up front give the Soca Warriors a distinct advantage over Honduras in the final third especially at home.
But Honduras has too much quality in the midfield and is much more technical side than Trinidad and this match should be a draw.
Prediction: T&T 1 Honduras 1
El Salvador- United States 9pm ET, ESPN 2/ESPN 360/Telefutura
Brad Guzan will get the start between the pipes for the suspended Tim Howard. Other than that their isn’t much to be concerned about for the US against a side that has overachieved to get this far but is incredibly outclassed in the Hexagonal. A heroic comeback against Trinidad to get a draw will probably end up being the highlight of the round for El Salvador.
The US should win this match despite the hostile away crowd easily. Still El Salvador, the lowest ranked CONCACAF side in the March 2008 FIFA rankings from outside the Caribbean has had a remarkable run to get this far.
Prediction: United States 2 El Salvador 0
SATURDAY NEWS: Dale Mitchell has been fired by the CSA as Canada’s National Team manager. Mitchell who flopped at the U-20 World Cup in 2007, I believe did a credible job with the full national team, implementing an attacking minded approach and fighting hard in CONCACAF’s group of death in semifinal qualifying. Still Canada has as much talent in its starting XI as any team in the Confederation outside of Mexico and possibly the US (yeah I know I’ve been roasted for saying this before, but their are a few Canadian players I’d take over their US counterparts, and Canada has consistently shown going back to the early part of this decade that they can play with the US) but the lack of quality depth has continued to cost Canada. After Canada’s starting XI, the team drops of totally to a point where they are not even competitive with the likes of Jamaica or Trinidad&Tobago. Until the CSA makes a commitment to deepen Canada’s player pool, coaching turnover will continue. At some point the CSA must either be disbanded or step up and improve Canadian football. They are the ones to blame, not Mitchell.