Tonight I get a first real chance to get involved with the CONCACAF Qualifying region. So far we’ve only got involved in this region once as we cashed in Honduras’ 2-1 win over the USA, as that night I happily acknowledge the USA team just weren’t going to be strong enough. Tonight will be a different story and I’d strongly advising backing Mexico too heavily in this sort of fixture. Potentially, history could be made tonight in a season where the MLS is beating Mexican teams over two legs for the first time.
Costa Rica vs. Jamaica (2.00am)
Jamaica travel to Costa Rica having never won in a World Cup Qualifier against this evenings opponents, who have picked up 35 wins at home in the last 8 world cup qualifying campaigns and have only been beaten by Honduras and Mexico in that time. This Jamaica side are rather strong at home but have only won 4 away qualifiers since the turn of the century having played 20 games. More recently Costa Rica have won 13 of their last 16 home qualifiers and it’s probably the strongest team they’ve been able to field in recent years, including the likes of MLS players Jairo Arrieta and Alvaro Sabario – and perhaps more commonly known to all Joel Campbell of Betis and Bryan Ruiz of Fulham. The Jamaican line up will be very familiar to you all, as it’s something of a Championship XI. Beckford, McCleary, Rudolph Austin, Nosworthy, Mariappa and Marvin Elliot all tend to start for this team and despite them being good players within their league they don’t even match up to the quality of the MLS players in this Costa Rica side, let alone the strong core of it. It’s also a side with a few new recent additions and it’s not really settled down. Winless in their last 6 games and having scored in only 2 of the last 6 against some considerably weaker teams, I think they’ll see there are more winnable games ahead. Of course as a professional team they’re going to want to come here and pick up a result, and despite their 0-0 in Azteca (a result I’ll happy tribute to Mexico going down hill lately) I think Costa Rica have far more motivation to pull away from Jamaica in to the top 4 of the group as their road trip to the Azteca is still to come. The odds for the win have rapidly dropped the just below 1.7 so my hand is slightly forced in taking -0.75 but I’m happy to do it and I’ll settle for half a win if that is what it turns out as.
Mexico vs. USA – (2.00am)
Tonight, Jurgen Klinsmann will take his US side in to Azteca to do serious battle. This is such an intense rivalry it’s rare you see a hammering or clear win of any kind. The US is growing and for once it lays claim to a host of plays known across European Football. Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron and Santos dangerman Hercules Gomez. I think we’d certainly be unlucky if tonight was the first one in Mexico’s favor in a while as I feel this US side is really closing the gap. The USA left the Azteca with a 1-0 win the last time these two sides met. In their 6 visits to Azteca since the turn of the year, USA would have voided this market 4 times with a 1 goal lose and cashed twice with a 0-0 draw and a 0-1 win. In that time the US also won 2-0 in these sides solitary World Cup meeting. Mexico will be as motivated as ever given their recent results and the US’ 1-0 victory the last side they did meet, but motivation can easily turn to a let down spot in any sport, football included. Jamaica stole a 0-0 with some stellar defending in a game where they failed to attack Mexico or control any possession. The US are a side that will have some possession, will attack and are probably likely to score this evening as they often do against Mexico. The home side led 2-0 against Honduras with around quarter of an hour to go in last weeks qualifier before throwing away a much needed 3 points and now they’re in a situation where if they can’t beat local rivals USA, the press are all over this side like a rash. Qualification aside, we’ve seen this US side quite likes a sticky road situation. They beat Italy 1-0 and Slovenia 3-2, before losing to France 1-0 and Belgium 1-0 (all full strength sides at home) and friendly or not that shows for me that they can compete. Mexico have definitely had the better of recent years points wise, but the gap is closing and there was a time when a Mexico win by 3 or more goals any time they meet the hapless USA was almost a banker. The recent development of ‘Soccer’ (Nah, Football) has done a lot to change the fortunes of this nation and most of it’s players are no longer all stuck in the MLS. Along with some top names from the MLS, a big majority of these players now ply their trade in Bundesliga, Liga MX and the Premier League. Any defense in world football will do well to prevent the due of Clint Dempsey and in-form Jozy Altidore from scoring this season
United States +1 @ 1.88 with Pinnacle
Costa Rica -0.75 @ 1.87 with Pinnacle