|(World Cup qualifiers) Honduras, wobbly Mexico in the hunt
Honduras host Costa Rica tomorrow with a chance to secure a 2014 World Cup berth as mighty Mexico bid to breathe life into their CONCACAF qualifying campaign.
The United States and Costa Rica have already qualified for next year's finals in Brazil, leaving Honduras, Mexico and Panama battling for the third and final direct entry from North and Central America and the Caribbean with two matches remaining.
The fourth-placed team will face Oceania's New Zealand for a World Cup spot, with even lowly Jamaica still technically in with a chance of making the playoff.
Honduras lie third in the standings with 11 points, three more than Mexico and Panama who face off at Azteca Stadium tomorrow.
Honduras can book their second straight World Cup finals appearance, and third overall, with a victory over Costa Rica in San Pedro Sula – depending on the outcome in Mexico City.
Honduras missed out on a chance to bolster their position on September 10 when they were unable to hold onto an early lead. They drew 2-2 against Panama.
Mexico will be under the microscope, their so-far disastrous qualifying campaign seeing them in danger of missing the World Cup finals for the first time since 1990 – when they were banned by FIFA for using overage players in the 1989 World Youth Championship.
With just one victory in eight matches in the six-nation final qualifying group, Mexico are fifth – trailing Panama on goal difference.
An embarrassing 2-1 defeat to visiting Honduras spelled the end of Jose Manuel “Chepo'' de la Torre's managerial tenure last month, and his successor, Luis Fernando Tena – who managed Mexico's 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning team – departed after a 2-0 loss to the United States in Columbus, Ohio, on September 10.
Victor Manuel Vucetich is now at the helm, and insists it is not too late for Mexico.
“The group is gelling more and more every day, and this gives us the serenity that we can come out victorious with this squad,'' he said.
In Panama they'll be facing a side hungry to follow up their run to the Gold Cup final with a first trip to the World Cup finals.
The United States, who top the group with 16 points to Costa Rica's 15, host Jamaica tomorrow in Kansas City.