Monday, March 17, 2008

Olympic Qualifying; Group Stage Final

As we American users say in the forums of hattrick when the Mexicans fail miserably: jajajajajajaja. USA, Canada, Guatemala and Honduras go through to the next round of qualifying, Mexico do not. Inside, a look at how that happened.

In Group A, we saw the reason the World Cup Finals play the final group matches at the same time. Before the USA-Honduras match even started, both teams knew they were going through. In the first match on Saturday, Panama took out its frustration on the undermanned Cuba squad, with Panama winning 4-1. At least Cuba was able to field 11 players this time, as Linares' suspension had been served. The result left both teams shy of the USA's point total, leading to a listless final match in the group.

The USA-Honduras match up was played as if both teams did not want to win the group. Results in Group B meant that the feared Mexican squad could only finish second at best, and the winner of Group A might have to face them. So both the USA, starting the day in second, and Honduras played the match not to win. The USA took it to the extreme when Charlie Davies sprayed a penalty about 3 yards wide of the right post in the 62nd minute. Davies earned another penalty in injury time, and a lackluster-so-far Eddie Gaven put it in the net.

Group A final standings (W-D-L; Pts; GD)
USA 2-1-0; 7; +2
Honduras 2-0-1; 6; +2
Panama 1-0-2; 3; +1
Cuba 0-1-2; 1; -5

In Group B, the sea change day was on Friday. Haiti pulled out a 2-1 thriller over Canada, but the real story was Guatemala defeating Mexico, also 2-1. It was Mexico's first loss at this level in 23 matches, and it propelled Guatemala into the next round.

On Sunday, the last two matches of the group were played. Canada, sitting on one point played Guatemala, who had already clinched first place in the group. Haiti, on three points, still needed a result to go through in their match against Mexico, who had their lone point from the Canada draw. If Guatemala played an inferior squad, it set up nicely for Canada to pip Mexico at the post, and it would appear that is what happened.

In the first of the day's two matches, Canada routed Guatemala 5-0. Will Johnson scored a brace on both sides of halftime, and Tosaint Ricketts added his own second-half double. The game was sealed in injury-time by Kyle Hall. Mexico now had a seriously pitched uphill climb ahead of them in the second match. The Mexicans came out quickly and put one in the net in the first 20 minutes. Mexico also caught the benefit of an early red card as Haiti's Aveska was sent off in the 26th minute. After Mexico went two up in the 61st, they had the mental breakdown that would lead to their tournament demise. In the 62nd minute, Leonel Saint-Preux broke through the Mexican defense and scored. Mexico, previously even on goal difference with Canada, now had to pull at least six goals to advance. They ended up with five, which might cost Hugo Sanchez the senior team job as well.

Group B final standings (W-D-L; Pts; GD)
Guatemala 2-0-1; 6; -3
Canada 1-1-1; 4; +4
Mexico 1-1-1; 4; +3
Haiti 1-0-2; 3; -4

The semifinals of the tournament, and the de facto Olympic bid finals, will be held on March 20 in Nashville. The matches are Guatemala-Honduras and USA-Canada. The first one should be a barn burner, the second one will (hopefully) be a walkover.


Ian said...

That Mexico-Haiti game was shady. Not that our fine and upstanding CONCACAF region would ever have a problem with corruption and bribery *cough*JackWarner*cough*, but seriously, did Mexico pay Haiti to throw the game?

The NY Kid said...

did Mexico pay Haiti to throw the game?

Hey, we're the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, man!