Honduras reaches World Cup, U.S. helps out Mexico
Mexico gets lucky to reach playoff with New Zealand
Honduras claimed the last automatic CONCACAF qualifying spot for next year's World Cup in Brazil while Mexico scraped into a further playoff thanks to help from an unlikely ally — the United States — on Tuesday.
Honduras went into its game at Jamaica knowing a draw would be enough regardless of Mexico's result at Costa Rica, and did enough with a 2-2 draw.
It got the ideal start when Carlo Costly scored in the first minute, only for Je-Vaughn Watson to equalize for Jamaica two minutes later.
Maynor Figueroa restored Honduras' lead in the 33rd before Jamaica drew level with Rodolph Austin's penalty in the 59th.
Mexico started the day three points ahead of Panama and holding fourth place in the group which would yield a two-game playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand.
However Mexico lost 2-1 at already-qualified Costa Rica, while Panama was leading the U.S. 2-1 heading into stoppage time. Had Panama been able to hang on, it would have moved ahead of Mexico into fourth and condemned 'El Tri' to a humiliating non-qualification.
Just when Mexico's run of five-straight World Cup appearances looked over, the U.S. scored twice in stoppage time — through Graham Zusi then Aron Johannsson — to snatch a 3-2 win which cruelly ended Panama's World Cup dream and gave Mexico an unlikely reprieve.
Goals by Brian Ruiz in the first half and Alvaro Saborio in the second gave Costa Rica the win.
Oribe Peralta scored in the 29th minute for Mexico, which won only two games in the 10-game final stage of CONCACAF qualifying. One of those victories came last Friday against Panama in the first match for new coach Victor Manuel Vucetich, and that proved the difference for El Tri.
"We thought that we were out," Peralta said.
Mexico could be hard-pressed to beat the Kiwis and get to Brazil, especially if it can't find a way to generate more goals. In 10 games, the Mexicans scored onlyseven goals.
"We've got to reflect, and we have to do whatever it takes to make it to the World Cup," Peralta added. "Things are not working as we wish."