It’s that time again. The final set of World Cup Qualifiers. Time has come for celebrations and heartache. Some of the usual suspects have already booked their tickets to the World Cup – Brazil, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Netherlands, Italy, United States and Argentina – along with a couple of teams who are not so common to recent World Cups – Iran and Costa Rica. But in the next week, teams from UEFA, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF will be securing a majority of the remaining World Cup spots. Perhaps the most intriguing of these regions is CONCACAF due to the storylines that could transpire if results go right – or wrong depending on the nation. As such, this article will serve to provide a number of scenarios for each of the CONCACAF nations.
First and foremost, with the United States and Costa Rica having qualified for World Cup 2014, their results will not be of any concern. Furthermore, due to FIFA’s decision to use the October 17 rankings for seeding purposes, the United States is virtually assured of no possible seed and spot in Pot 1. Thus, each of the four remaining CONCACAF nations will serve as the primary focus here.
Jamaica (0.2% chance of advancing) – In their final two matches, Jamaica will face the USA (away) and Honduras (home). In terms of difficulty, Jamaica faces about as difficult a task as possible. With only 4 points in their first 8 Hexagonal matches, getting wins against the US and Honduras would seem impossible. However, this is the ONLY chance Jamaica has of advancing. Additionally, results in the other matches must result in Mexico and Panama only getting a maximum of 2 points each in their final two matchups – with Mexico hosting Panama this Friday.
Prediction – Jamaica bids farewell to the World Cup after losing by at least 2 goals to the US on Friday.
Mexico (50.3% chance of advancing) – Mexico is truly in a difficult position. While they have a slight advantage over Panama by hosting their match at home, Mexico has been awful – to say the very least – at the Azteca during the Hexagonal. They have scored only a single goal – in a loss to Honduras – and have been forced to take three 0-0 draws in their other home fixtures. To make matters worse, Mexico must go to Costa Rica in their final fixture. Oh, and Bryan Ruiz will be returning for Costa Rica, which can only make Los Ticos better, which is difficult to imagine given their 4-0-0 record at home. A win against Panama looks to be the only hope Mexico has of advancing to the World Cup.
Prediction – Mexico scores first against Panama and suffers the agony of a late goal to settle for a 1-1 draw. The devastation continues in San Jose with a 3-1 loss to Los Ticos. (See Panama’s prediction to see who advances).
Panama (50.8% chance of advancing) – Panama’s task is simple: beat Mexico. However, even with Mexico having played so poorly at home, Panama’s road form is just as bad at 0-2-2. The task does not get any easier with a home fixture against the United States on October 15. Panama does control their destiny as a win against Mexico virtually assures at least a fourth place finish. But, their home fixture with the US could prove a backup if they are unable to get the task done in Mexico. At home, Panama are 1-3-0 and they will face an injury-ridden US squad who has had mixed results on the road (1-1-2).
Prediction – As mentioned, Panama and Mexico draw 1-1. While the US is depleted, a road win is still likely against Panama and will force Panama to go to the dressing room to see the Mexico-Costa Rica score. Panama 1 – 2 United States. This result means that Panama will beat Mexico by goal difference and advance to the Playoff with New Zealand in November.
Honduras (98.8% chance of advancing) – While Honduras is almost guaranteed to advance to the World Cup, their primary concern will be getting the result on Friday to ensure they are not forced into the Playoff with New Zealand. Honduras must beat Costa Rica in San Pedro Sula in order to have a chance at guaranteeing they advance to the World Cup. Theoretically, if Mexico or Panama wins in Mexico City, Honduras could beat Costa Rica and still need a result in Jamaica to see their way through to Brazil. The only chance of not even getting a fourth place finish is to lose both of their remaining fixtures. This would leave them with 11 points and both Mexico and Panama would be able to pass Honduras by just getting 3 points and a solid goal difference in the final two fixtures.
Prediction – With Mexico and Panama drawing in Mexico City, Honduras see a similar fate against Costa Rica (1-1) and are forced to get a result in Jamaica to advance. With Jamaica eliminated, they will throw caution into the wind and surprise Honduras 2-1. Lucky for Honduras, both Panama and Mexico lose on the final day and they still advance to Brazil.
Final Table Prediction
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