Thus far, two teams from CONCACAF have already punched their ticket to Brazil. But if you asked at the beginning of qualifying who the first two teams to clinch would be, I doubt the response would be the USA and Costa Rica. Each team did their part, and now Honduras has the inside track on another direct qualifier to Brazil. Here is what our xCRO simulator thinks of the remaining teams in CONCACAF
Obviously Honduras winning at Mexico was the huge stunner in September. Had Honduras been able to hold on at home against Panama, it surely would have been Mexico heading to New Zealand to face the All Whites in the CONCACAF/OFC Play-Off. But Honduras still has work to do to reach their second consecutive World Cup.
Mexico v. Panama – Mexico City, Mexico
This is Panama’s chance to keep their hopes alive. Anything other than a loss must be considered a massive result for Panama. While we think there’s a 75% chance Panama doesn’t finish in the top 4 in the Hex, they’re certainly not out of it. They blew a golden opportunity hosting Jamaica to come away with 3 points and have really tailed off since a pretty strong start. This game will probably be closer than many expect, especially after Panama took care of business against Mexico in this summer’s Gold Cup. Each team has only won 1 game in the final round of qualifying, but expect that to change here. Panama is going to be put on ice.
Prediction: Mexico by 2
Honduras v. Costa Rica – San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Honduras surely will be salivating at the thought of this game. This is the one they know can send them to Brazil. One must wonder which Costa Rica team will show up here. Costa Rica really has nothing to play for, and with a poor showing can really hurt Mexico. Honduras knows that their final match is at Jamaica, who will most likely be eliminated on the 11th. If Honduras even gets a point out of this one, they’re going to be in great shape. Our predictor is immune to the fact that Costa Rica has nothing to play for.
USA v. Jamaica – Kansas City, USA
This game has the fewest implications of the three being played on Friday. USA is through to Brazil, and Jamaica is just waiting to be officially knocked out. Kansas City is one of the best environments in the United States, and the place will surely be rocking with home supporters. Despite not much to play for, Jurgen Klinsmann is not one to take his foot off the pedal. We think the USA makes a statement here.
Prediction: USA by 4
We expect the standings to look like this heading into the final matchday:
Panama would need something crazy to happen to get through, while Honduras is still clinging on to 3rd place. It should come down to the final day
Jamaica v. Honduras – Kingston, Jamaica
This should be it for Honduras. If they are able to get a win in Jamaica, it is highly likely that they qualify directly for Brazil. In the reverse fixture, Honduras took care of business 2-0. Unless Jamaica can win in the United States, they will have nothing to play for in this one other than pride. While it will be a tough environment, Honduras knows it must win to reach Brazil. With a trip on the line, that’s more than enough incentive. Expect a close one here, with the Hondurans being too strong in the end. Should Honduras and Mexico be level on points heading into this one, Honduras may try to pour in a few extra goals to help their goal differential.
Prediction: Honduras by 1
Panama v. USA – Panama City, Panama
This should be Panama’s last gasp. While they won’t be officially eliminated heading into the final matchday, they know they’ll need some help if they come up short against Mexico. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Panama come away with 3 points here. USA is on the road with nothing to play for. These games usually feature some young players that the team is hoping to bring to Brazil, so don’t expect a full-strength squad. Again, our predictor fails to take into account teams that have nothing to play for. Panama MUST get 3 points from this one.
Prediction: USA by 1
Costa Rica v. Mexico – San Jose, Costa Rica
This is going to be a great match. With Mexico on the ropes, Costa Rica can deliver a crushing blow. This match is specifically the reason why xCRO gives Mexico less than a 10% chance of qualifying directly for Brazil. Costa Rica was able to get a draw in the Azteca, and that is something the Mexicans must avenge. Just last month, Costa Rica beat USA 3-1 at home, which snapped one of the longest winning streaks in international football history. A coaching change doesn’t change the fact that Mexico is an average team at best. Anything less than 3 points for Mexico here will more than likely send them into the playoff against New Zealand. We think that’s what happens.
Here is our projection of the final standings in the Hex:
We fully expect USA, Costa Rica and Honduras to be the 3 headed directly to Brazil. Mexico is more than likely destined for a play-off with New Zealand to see who qualifies for Brazil. It’s a dramatic fall from grace for Mexico, and it would truly be shocking to see them anywhere else but in that situation. Mexico should be favored against New Zealand, but they have slipped up too many times to expect big things.
The Hex is never without drama, and that’s what it should provide in these final two matchdays. Follow us on Twitter @We_Global and keep visiting weglobalfootball.com for all of our previews. Thanks for reading!