CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualification continued in mid-November with Round 4 action. Here’s a look back at how the opening batch of games went, focusing on the Caribbean nations…
Background: There are five rounds in CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualification (WCQ), spanning across 31 months with the first round of action taking place in March 2015 and the last taking place in October 2017. A total of 35 nations are involved in the overall qualification process, 25 of them hailing from the Caribbean. The first three stages work on a two-legged series basis, teams play each other home-and-away with the aggregate score (and away goal rule if necessary) determining who advances, while the ensuing two stages use a group format. The famous “Hex” – which has been going since its inception in 1998 – is the final hurdle and pits the cream of CONCACAF against each other on a home-and-away round-robin group basis. The top three finishers book their ticket for Russia 2018, the fourth-placed team enters a two-legged playoff versus AFC’s fifth-placed team.
The Home of Caribbean Football will be providing extensive coverage on the whole qualification process, covering every game, goal and moment. The last Caribbean country to make it to the World Cup was Trinidad & Tobago in 2006 – can anyone end the region’s 12-year wait this time around?
Note: The countries underlined won their respective ties.
Note: Given this website primarily covers and focuses on Caribbean football, there’s no detailed write-up for ties involving just N/C American sides, only dates, venues and scores.
Mexico – El Salvador
13/11 – played in Mexico City: 3-0 (Guardado 7′, Herrera 42′, Vela 64′)
Canada – Honduras
13/11 – played in Vancouver: 1-0 (Larin 38′)
Honduras – Mexico
17/11 – played in San Pedro Sula: 0-2 (Corona 67′, Damm 72′)
El Salvador – Canada
17/11 – played in San Salvador: 0-0
Costa Rica – Haiti
13/11 – played in San Jose: 1-0 (Gamboa 29′)
To travel to San Jose and play Costa Rica – the surprise package of last year’s World Cup – was a tough opening assignment for Haiti. They struggled to cope with their opponent’s quick passing game and that’s what led to Cristian Gamboa’s goal – one-touch football around the 18-yard box and a slight blunder from goalkeeper Johny Placide allowed the West Brom defender to smash home. Haiti’s more offensive players such as Wilde-Donald Guerrier and Duckens Nazon failed to truly impose themselves on proceedings. Kervens Belfort, Jeff Louis, Pascal Millien and Sony Norde, all key performers, started on the bench which was perhaps a sign that boss Marc Collat thought there was a greater chance of taking something in the next game against Jamaica.
Jamaica – Panama
13/11 – played in Kingston: 0-2 (Quintero 43′, Cooper 52′)
Over the last few years Panama have become more and more of a CONCACAF powerhouse and they demonstrated that in Kingston, registering a convincing 0-2 victory on the road. Alberto Quintero’s free-kick deceived goalkeeper Duwayne Kerr and put the visitors one goal ahead before Armando Cooper doubled the scoreline shortly after half-time. His cross-cum-shot fooled both Wes Morgan and Kerr and rolled into the back of the net. Substitute Dever Orgill, who plays his club football in Finland, forced Kerr’s opposite number Jose Calderon into producing a smart save late on. Overall, though, Winfried Schafer’s men lacked sufficient intensity, movement and quality to overcome a very strong Panamanian team.
Haiti – Jamaica
17/11 – played in Port-au-Prince: 0-1 (Donaldson 62′)
This was a crucial win for Jamaica and a bitterly disappointing defeat for Haiti. New boy Clayton Donaldson – recruited by the Jamaican FA following his impressive performances for Birmingham City – scored his first goal in the Reggae Boyz jersey and it turned out to be the winner. An inviting corner was swung in from the right and the Bradford-born striker powered his header past Placide. Nazon could have equalized in the dying minutes but his acrobatic volley flew just over the crossbar. Three big points on the board for Jamaica, yet another narrow loss for Haiti.
Panama – Costa Rica
17/11 – played in Panama City: 1-2 (Tejada 71′ — Ruiz 66′, Urena 69′)
United States – St Vincent & the Grenadines
13/11 – played in St Louis: 6-1 (Wood 11′, Johnson 29, Altidore 31′, 74′, Cameron 51′, Zardes 58′ — Anderson 5′)
For six minutes St Vincent & the Grenadines were in dreamland. The Caribbean minnows were leading USA on American soil thanks to Oalex Anderson’s 5th minute strike. Yes, USA inevitably roared back and in the end they recorded a comprehensive victory, but credit must be given to Vincy Heat for the way in which they applied themselves throughout. This is a modest team mostly comprised of part-timers yet they find themselves in the fourth round of WCQ, having beaten Guyana and Aruba respectively in the previous rounds. Goalscorer Anderson, contracted to Seattle Sounders 2 in the USL, was the Vincy Heat’s star performer in St Louis: direct, explosive and creative from the left flank. He took his goal wonderfully. You have to admire SVG’s philosophy, as manager Cornelius Huggins explains: “We like to play it on the ground and play. That’s our brand. Our brand is to play it on the ground and tick-tock.”
Guatemala – Trinidad & Tobago
13/11 – played in Guatemala City: 1-2 (Mejia 90′ — Hyland 67′, K Jones 80′)
Following a slow first half, T&T head coach Stephen Hart shook things up just after the hour mark by bringing on midfield duo Kevan George and Cordell Cato to add some extra attacking intent. The double switch worked effectively as the Soca Warriors began to cause Guatemala more problems and Khaleem Hyland exploited this, surging forward and curling in a sweet long-range strike. T&T pressed for another and they got it with 10 minutes left – Joevin Jones picked out Kenwyne Jones beautifully and the skipper fired home first time on the volley. An exquisite finish and a very important one too, meaning T&T had pretty much sealed three points. The Guatemalans registered a consolation goal through Carlos Mejia but Hart’s side had done enough by that point. T&T were good value for their win based on their second half display.
St Vincent & the Grenadines – Guatemala
17/11 – played in Arnos Vale: 0-4 (Cincotta 8′, M Lopez 32′, D Lopez 48′, Tinoco 81′)
Another heavy defeat for SVG, this time on home soil against Guatemala. The coach Huggins will be annoyed with the fact that his team conceded 75% of their goals from set-pieces, even if the first was a very well taken free-kick from Stefano Cincotta. This WCQ campaign isn’t going to be easy for Vincy Heat, but they mustn’t get too down in the dumps. They should try to look at this result as a positive and constructive experience. Playing the best in CONCACAF will only improve the island’s game in the long-term. Assistant boss Ezra Hendrickson’s message is that the team “have to keep positive.”
Trinidad & Tobago – United States
17/11 – played in Port of Spain: 0-0
This match-up evoked memories of the memorable 1989 CONCACAF Championship game between T&T – USA, a qualifier for the 1990 World Cup. Played in Port of Spain, T&T’s ‘Strike Squad’ suffered heartbreak as Paul Caligiuri’s strike qualified the Americans for their first World Cup finals since 1950 and shattered any dreams T&T had of making their debut at the tournament (which eventually followed in 2006). So there was a very interesting sub-plot to this 2018 WCQ. In truth it was a rather dull affair; a scoreless draw in at a sold-out Hasely Crawford Stadium. Certainly a much better outcome for the hosts than USA. Four points from two outings and an undefeated start to WCQ for the Soca Warriors. The momentum is with them.
By Nathan Carr
Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave any constructive feedback in the comments box below. Stay tuned for the Round 4 Matchday Two Review coming out in March 2016. Meanwhile, you can get in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.