With only a little over a year until Brazil 2014, the confederation with the most uncertainty remaining is certainly CONCACAF. Thus far, not a single squad has seized the opportunities available to them. Panama sits atop the Hexagonal in somewhat of a surprise. Had it not been for a collapse against Costa Rica, Panama may have been in the pole position to qualify directly for Brazil and their first ever World Cup.
The June fixtures are arguably the most pivotal in the Hexagonal as the final standings begin to take form. Given that all 6 teams remain within 3 points of each other, the time is now to make a move to the top. Mexico’s appearance in June’s Confederations Cup in Brazil mandated a move of their June 18th fixture with Jamaica. Instead, the Reggae Boyz will now host regional powerhouses Mexico and USA over the course of 4 days as they attempt to crawl their way out of the Hexagonal basement.
As we showed last week, we ran the remaining fixtures through our simulator xCRO to find out if things truly are as close as the standings indicate.
If Jamaica were holding a poker hand, they’d be saddled with a pair of 4’s. Things are looking difficult, but not impossible. With so many games left anything can happen, but the time is now to see what cards are left in the deck.
Jamaica v. Mexico – Kingston,Jamaica
“Chepo” de la Torre must be feeling some fire under his Corona-sponsored manager’s chair. To date in 2013, Mexico has done nothing but draw with its opponents. How long can the futility continue until a replacement is considered? Jamaica did well to earn a point in the Azteca, but only came away with one point in the following two matches. I think this is the match Mexico is finally able to put it together.
Prediction: Mexico by 2
Jamaica v. USA – Kingston, Jamaica
The result of the Mexico match will surely increase the importance of this one If Mexico indeed take all 3 points, a spicy Caribbean jerk sauce won’t be the only heat the Reggae Boyz are feeling. These two teams were paired together in the 3rd round of qualifying, and Jamaica came away victorious. You can be sure the Americans haven’t forgotten that match. Look for Europa League bound Jozy Altidore to show why he led AZ Alkmaar to their first Dutch Cup in 30 years against a side running on tired legs.
Prediction: USA by 1
Panama vs. Mexico – Panama City, Panama
The last time El Tri made the trip to Panama City was all the way back in World Cup 2006 qualifying. This time around, it is Panama who holds the edge in the standings. Mexico should have some momentum after their clash with Jamaica on the 4th. Panama has arguably had the easiest schedule thus far in qualifying, and this will be a real test for them. Any points here would go a long way in reaching Brazil, but the Mexican side may be too tough to overcome despite a short lay-off.
Prediction: Mexico by 1
Costa Rica vs. Honduras – San Jose, Costa Rica
In Costa Rica’s last 7 home matches, they have taken 19 of a possible 21 points, including a victory over Honduras in January’s Copa Centroamericana final. With these teams level on points, Honduras would surely be happy to escape with a point. Costa Rica is still trying to wrap their heads around the blizzard that hit them in Colorado, but this is a quality opportunity to build on the momentum they created in March. This is one to keep an eye on.
Prediction: Costa Rica by 1
Mexico vs. Costa Rica – Mexico City, Mexico
After traveling to the USA for a friendly with Nigeria, a trip to Kingston, Jamaica, and a trip to Panama City, El Tri finally return home before heading to Brazil for the Confederations Cup. This travel schedule certainly is not kind, but there is a legitimate possibility that at this point Mexico sit atop the standings. Mexico took both meetings with Costa Rica in the last round of qualifying. Mexico has taken 11 meetings in a row dating back to 2001, and we expect that trend to continue in a strong way.
Prediction: Mexico by 3
Honduras vs. Jamaica – Tegucigalpa, Honduras
The Honduran Federation decided to throw the people in the capital city of Tegucigalpa a bone here by moving from their traditional San Pedro Sula home. This is an absolutely critical game for both teams if they want to have a realistic shot at reaching Brazil. I’d argue this is the most critical of the 9 matches being played in June. Jamaica has only once gone to Honduras and returned home with something to show for it. That was in 1996 in a 0-0 draw. We expect Honduras to show their class here and get the ship righted.
Prediction: Honduras by 2
USA vs. Panama – Seattle, USA
“How can we make a June trip for Panama as difficult as possible?” Surely this is was US Soccer was thinking when they decided to ship Los Canaleros to the Pacific Northwest. This flight is almost 3,700 miles (almost 6,000 km) traveling over 7 hours, and the common man can’t even purchase a direct ticket between the two cities. This should guarantee a raucous home crowd on a chilly June night. This will be a fun one in one of the best stadium atmospheres in the United States. Clint Dempsey loves these matches.
Prediction: USA by 2
Costa Rica vs. Panama – San Jose, Costa Rica
If things shake out as expected, this will be one hotly contested fixture. Costa Rica’s final two home games are against USA and Mexico, so this is their last opportunity on home soil against one of their closest competitors. Panama may still be stuck on 5 points at this juncture after leading the qualifying group at the start of June. Unfortunately, we don’t think things get any better for Panama here, as we project Panama to come away with nothing to show for their 3 June fixtures. If they can prevent Costa Rica from a win here, they would still be in pretty decent shape.
Prediction: Costa Rica by 1
USA vs. Honduras – Sandy, USA
If you thought getting from Panama City to Seattle was tough, try getting from Honduras to Utah. There may not be much of a visiting contingent, but that doesn’t mean this game will be easy. Honduras seems to be the Central American team that gives the USA the most difficulty. The reverse fixture saw one of the most dynamic goals thus far in World Cup Qualifying:
This should be a close one, but the United States should come away victorious.
Prediction: USA by 1
The standings following June’s fixtures would certainly be more separated than they currently are if things shake out the way we project. Surely they will not, but this is a good idea of where teams would be situated.
|Costa Rica||10||thru 6|
Obviously, predicting USA and Mexico to gobble up all of the available points and Panama and Jamaica barren seems a little over the top, but we will stick with our predictor and see what happens. After everything shakes out, we’ll take a look at how each country fares in their quest for a place in Brazil. Keep checking We Global Football and our Twitter @We_Global for all the latest news.