EL SALVADOR - TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
COSTA RICA - HONDURAS
The final group of Concacaf matches get underway today and these six teams will compete for three automatic and one play-off spots, over ten guelling matches. USA are huge favourites to qualify of course and traditionally Mexico would be at equally prohibitive odds, but after limping through the previous round and with the improvement shown by most of the other teams in the group, several good sources are tipping them to struggle. Personally, I think that their home form will see them through comfortably enough, but I would not like to be in Sven-Goran Eriksson shoe's if that is not the case.
His team have prepared well for the trip North, the squad have been together for a week and they arrived in Columbus on saturday, to acclimatise to the cold and wet conditions, which actually, are not as bad today, as everyone was predicting/expecting. However, Mexico have a mountain to climb, their last win in the US was in 1997 and these two are very regular combatants and their hosts, have not lost a competitive game on home soil in a decade. Also "El Tri" have to attempt to overcome all this history, without Magallon, Guardado, Arce, Vela and Torrado, all of whom are either injured or suspended, several others are very short of match practice. Given the conditions, history and team news, I am firmly in the US camp, Mexico almost always arrive here , at least mentally, a goal down and I see little changing today. It is often the reverse in the return game and given the nature of qualification, both teams would probably be happy to "swap" three points in the h2h matches.
I am going to side step the Costa Rica game, but will point out that Honduras have a very talented crop of players and are the biggest danger to the "big two", Suarzo, Palacios, Figueroa and Guevara have all now proven themselves on the world stage and this is a team to keep an eye on. Palacios is missing today and that, along with Costa Rica's recent home form on their artificial pitch, is enough to make me swerve this one.
However, I will take a little on the "old men" to get a result in El Salvador. Much has been made of the return of 40yo Lapaty and 36 yo Yorke to the T&T midfield, but there is little doubt that they both remain an asset to the team and they will create chances for the inform front men. Stern John and Jason Scotland, who is scoring freely for Swansea in the Championship, are both likely to have to start on the bench, with the striking roles taken by Kenwynne Jones and Cornell Glenn. What is clear is that the visitors have plenty of options in this department and seem sure to get on the scoresheet.
These two met in the US last August, with T&T winning 3-1, since when they have only lost twice in 16 starts, one came away to the US, which carries no shame and another in a very low profile Caribbean tournament. The domestic players have been training together for a week in Argentina and were joined on Sunday, by the European based players, they are at full strength and are confident of a positive result. All four teams are going to be a little cautious and will not want to have to face the US or Mexico having lost already, so the draw is a viable option, but I expect the visitors experince to count, after a cautious opening period.
6.5 points USA -1/2 ball 1.90 general quote.
5.5 points Trinidad +1/4 ball 1.78 asian line.