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Canada on brink, US ice Honduras in big chill


Los Angeles (AFP) – Canada moved to the brink of their first World Cup finals appearance in 36 years on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over El Salvador as the United States reignited their qualification campaign with victory against Honduras.

Second-half goals from Atiba Hutchinson and Jonathan David gave Canada a deserved victory in San Salvador and left them leading the CONCACAF qualifying standings with 25 points from 11 games.

Although their qualification for Qatar is not mathematically certain, it would require a freak sequence of results for Canada to fail to qualify for their first World Cup since the 1986 finals in Mexico.

The Canadians lead the standings by four points with three games remaining, all to be played next month. A win over Costa Rica in their next game on March 24 would seal Canada’s place in Qatar.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the USA cruised to a 3-0 win over Honduras in a game played in sub-zero temperatures in St. Paul Minnesota.

Two Honduras players were substituted at half-time due to the extreme weather conditions at the Allianz Field.

Players from both teams took to the field with multiple layers of clothing, with some opting for balaclavas in addition to gloves and thermal jerseys.

Jamaican referee Oshane Nation also wore a balaclava and gloves throughout.

USA coach Gregg Berhalter defended the decision to play in St.Paul, where temperatures for the evening kick off plunged to around 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius).

“We provided Honduras and their staff and the referees with warm weather gear, we provided them with headgear, and trying to make it a safe environment for them to play,” Berhalter said.

“When we go down to those countries and it’s 90 degrees and it’s unbearable humidity and guys are getting dehydrated and cramping up and getting heat exhaustion. That’s the nature of our competition. 

“When we scheduled this game and this location, you know, you have to go by average temperatures.”

Berhalter’s side, beaten 2-0 by Canada on Sunday, bounced back to win with goals from Weston McKennie, Walker Zimmerman and Christian Pulisic. 

The victory leaves the USA with 21 points from 11 games, four adrift of Canada.

With three games remaining, the US look well-positioned to grab one of the three automatic World Cup qualifying berths available for teams from Central America, North America and the Caribbean.

The team finishing in fourth place faces a play-off against the winner of the Oceania qualifying tournament.

Elsewhere Wednesday, Costa Rica kept their qualifying hopes alive with a 1-0 away win over Jamaica in Kingston.

The victory leaves Costa Rica in fifth with 16 points, just behind Panama (17 points) who were playing Mexico later.

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