Honduras v. Costa Rica
Squad News: Costa Rica will be returning a majority of the Gold Cup squad that lost to Mexico on penalties in the semi-finals, including midfielder Celso Borges and captain Walter Centeno. Honduras’s first teammers, including captain Amado Guevara, replace the Gold Cup ‘B’ squad that went down 2-0 to the Americans in the semi-finals.
Previous Meeting: Last time these teams met in San Jose in May, Costa Rica won 2-0 in a cagey match, Andy Furtado grabbing a brace.
Verdict: With Los Ticos atop the qualifying group after trouncing the US 3-1 in San Jose and T&T 3-2 back in June, expect Costa Rica to produce an inspired performance to defeat Honduras in Tegucigalpa. Despite the hostile atmosphere, Costa Rica has shown they are capable of playing well in such conditions, dominating Mexico for long stretches in Dallas during the Gold Cup.
Still, head coach Rodrigo Kenton will not underestimate Los Catrachos, who have been inconsistent throughout the qualifying campaign, losing to Costa Rica 2-0 while beating Mexico 3-1. Expect the inconsistency to continue here. 1-0 Costa Rica.
Squad News: American coach Bob Bradley will have a full squad to choose from, including top goal scorer in the competition and new Hull City signing Jozy Altidore and new AC Milan signing Oguchi Onyewu. Only Stuart Holden and Brian Ching remain from the Gold Cup squad. Mexico, however, will be missing captain Rafa Marquez through a torn calf muscle. Apart from that, El Tri will have a full strength squad.
Previous Meeting: The United States eased to a 2-0 victory in an ill-tempered match in the first round of fixtures back in February. Michael Bradley scored both goals.
Verdict: Far and away the pick of the round. The US have had the upper hand over Mexico on American soil excepting the 5-0 Gold Cup trouncing, but playing in the vaunted Azteca Stadium has been a formidable challenge for the Americans, who are 0-22-1 in Mexico City in World Cup qualifying. The late afternoon heat and altitude will almost benefit the Mexicans, who are used to playing in the stifling conditions. El Tri coach Javier Aguirre will be hoping the 5-0 defeat of the Americans in July will buoy and mentally strengthen his squad, Bob Bradley will be hoping to revenge the ignominious Gold Cup defeat. 1-1 draw.
T&T v. El Salvador
Squad news: T&T will be boosted by the arrival of Bobby Zamora of Fulham and Lloyd Samuel of Bolton, who received their Trinidadian passports over the weekend. Zamora will be inserted directly into the squad and will form a powerful strike force with fellow Premier League forward Kenwyne Jones. El Salvador will be well-rested after having failed to qualify for the Gold Cup. La Azul coach Carlos de Los Cobos will have a mainly domestic-based squad to choose from, but will call on foreign-based players such as fullback Alfredo Pacheco (New York Red Bulls) and midfielder Elisio Quintanilla (Ernis Aradippou – Cyprus) to boost the team.
Previous Meeting: Last time these two sides met in San Salvador in February, the match ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Osael Romero grabbing a 90th minute equalizer for the home side.
Verdict: This is a must-win for the Socca Warriors as they lie four points adrift of the fourth place playoff spot. The arrival of Samuel will be welcomed by head coach Russel Latapy, who has seen his side concede 11 goals in 5 qualifying matches. El Salvador started the qualifying campaign brightly but saw a 1-0 defeat to Honduras in June cast the team out of the qualifying spots. This is a match between two evenly match teams; Trinidad, with their backs against the wall, will squeak by. 2-1 T&T.