With September World Cup Qualifiers rapidly approaching, some teams in CONCACAF will have their campaign either made or broken in little time. USA and Costa Rica are well ahead of the pack, while Jamaica is hanging on to a lifeline. Since the Gold Cup, we again ran simulations on the remaining games using our Expected Conditional Results Outcome simulator (xCRO). Here’s how things looked before the Gold Cup:
..and here’s how they look now:
Obviously, the big winners here are USA and Panama, as reaching the Gold Cup Finals boosted each team in our rankings. The USA now advances directly to Brazil in all 1,000 simulations. They should be feeling very confident. While Mexico is still in strong position, they really cannot afford any more slip-ups. Honduras has the chance in the Azteca to regain momentum in the Hex. Jamaica’s goose is all but cooked.
Mexico vs. Honduras – Mexico City, Mexico
This is a massive game for both sides. Mexico has bored viewers to death in 2013, and I wouldn’t expect much more here. If Honduras is able to get ANYTHING out of this match, they’re in great shape. Their final 3 games are hosting Costa Rica and Panama while traveling to Jamaica. Mexico, meanwhile, would still have to travel to the both of the top 2 teams in the Hex and would be in serious danger of missing out on Brazil. Despite the tremendous opportunity, Honduras is probably going to fall short in this one. I’d expect a low scoring affair.
Prediction: Mexico by 2
Panama vs. Jamaica – Panama City, Panama
Nothing keeps momentum going like a home tilt against the bottom feeders of the group. Jamaica is in a world of hurt here, and this match could finally put their World Cup campaign to rest. While Jamaica will not be mathematically eliminated with a loss, for all intents and purposes they’ll be done. Panama cannot afford anything less than 3 points here. The other 4 teams are too good to miss out on a win here. After a disappointing June, this is a must-have game for Panama. We think they’ll deliver.
Prediction: Panama by 2
Costa Rica vs. USA – San Jose, Costa Rica
This is probably going to be your best game in September. Costa Rica finds themselves ahead of the pack, and if they can defeat the USA, they’ll be looking outstanding for a trip to Brazil. USA, meanwhile, is on fire with their longest winning streak in team history at 12 games. The USA has shown they can go on the road and get the job done with a defeat of Bosnia-Herzegovina. With a full strength squad, our #8 ranked team in the world should keep the streak going and put the USA on the verge of Brazil.
Prediction: USA by 1
If things shake out like we predict (and usually they don’t), here’s what things would look like through 7 games of the hex:
Jamaica vs. Costa Rica – Kingston, Jamaica
This is it for Jamaica. They probably will need to defeat Costa Rica to stay alive. But Costa Rica knows this is the game that could get them over the hump. How things shake out in San Jose will certainly put more importance on this match. Costa Rica finishes at Honduras and home to Mexico, so this is a must have. Jamaica was just completely overmatched in the Hex, and Los Ticos should finally put them to rest. Jamaica certainly won’t go down without a fight.
Prediction: Costa Rica by 1
Honduras vs. Panama – San Pedro Sula, Honduras
If these teams are indeed 4th and 5th in the Hex, this match picks up even more importance. Panama will most likely be looking to just fend off Honduras. Getting out of San Pedro Sula with a point will go a long way towards Panama’s qualification hopes. It seems like not too long ago that Honduras’ campaign got off to a rousing start, but as of late they have certainly performed at a level below what the Hondurans have come to expect. Honduras has a slight edge here, but in the end we think these teams will draw level.
USA vs. Mexico – Columbus, USA
What an atmosphere this is going to be. USA at home against Mexico with a chance to clinch a World Cup spot is an opportunity the USA won’t want to pass up. Jurgen Klinsmann has been criticized, but the results in 2013 have shown he can mesh the talent of the United States into a winner. Mexico could be reeling a little here. They seem to have picked things up lately, but they really can’t expect much out of this game. The USA is just playing too well right now to be stopped. Mexico will have to fall back to the pack here. USA has passed them as the best team in CONCACAF. We’re predicting a tight match, but if things get rolling the flood gates could open.
Prediction: USA by 1… to Brazil
With 8 games in the books, the picture will become a little clearer at the top and bottom, but the middle will still be murky. Here’s what the standings would look like through 8.
It is obvious at this point that nothing will be given to Mexico. Finishing at USA, home to Panama and away to Costa Rica is no enviable task. Costa Rica should be in pretty solid position to snatch the 2nd automatic qualifying spot in CONCACAF, but it will be tight between Mexico, Panama, and Honduras to see who ends up where in the standings.
We hope you enjoyed our preview of the CONCACAF matches. We’ll have more previews coming soon so keep checking back at weglobalfootball.com and follow us on Twitter @We_Global to get all the latest updates. Thanks for reading!