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CONCACAF Update 2009   By Aldwyn McGill

USA and Mexico clinch spots in final four of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers

USA clinched a spot in the final four of the CONCACAF W-C qualifier after defeating Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 at the Hasley Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. The win put the United States in sole position of first place with 16 points, while Mexico moved up to the second spot with 15 points after a big 1-0 win at home over Honduras on a penalty at the 75 minute by captain Cuauhtemoc Blanco. El Salvador kept their slim hopes alive by defeating Costa Rica 1-0 on a heart breaking goal scored in the 91st minute by Rudis CORRALES. Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors was eliminated with the loss to USA...... Stay Tuned!

 

 

The Long and Winding Road to World Cup South Africa is close to an end:-

After the results of last weekend games of the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup qualifier, it is becoming evident that the Soca Warriors and El Salvador are having a difficult time in maneuvering through the long and winding road to World Cup South Africa.

 

Although the attitude is to move straight ahead, Honduras and USA are in the top spot with 13 points with Honduras leading on goal difference. Mexico moved into the slippery third spot after defeating Costa Rica 3-0 in San Jose to drop El Ticos to fourth place.

 

This is the home stretch, which means that although the race is close the teams are making a serious push for the finish line and at this, the last turn; some teams are breaking loose as the tough get going.

 

Trinidad and Tobago will have to turn back the clock when the Soca Warriors meet USA at the Hasley Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Wednesday at press time or face mathematical elimination from World Cup South Africa.

 

The same holds true for El Salvador who will be home to a Costa Rica team, which is coming off back to back loses. Anything less than a win will mean an exit from the tournament since a tie for the basement teams would not get them past 13 points in their last two games.

 

The situation is reversed for the top four teams although only the top three spots will automatically qualify for the World Cup. Which team is going to end up in the disappointing fourth spot is any ones guess.

 

Mexico has turned things around after their 4-1 loss to Honduras in the first leg to what many felt back then, was their inability to win on the road. However, since the Mexican Football Federation fired coach Sven Goran Eriksson, and hired new coach Aguirre, everything seems to be back on track.

 

However, on Wednesday, things could get rather ugly for Aguirre if Mexico does not defeat Honduras in front of their home fans where El Tri has not loss and Honduras is yet to win away from home.

 

Mexico is on a three game winning streak and although they have gotten the jumbee of their backs by winning games away from home, Honduras, on the other hand could pose a problem for Mexico defensively after scoring four goals in wins against both Costa Rica and the Soca Warriors.

 

Costa Rica is faltering at the wrong time, losing their last two games while giving up first place, which they held for most of the final round. Now they are in the tough fourth spot with the possibility of playing the fifth place South American team in a playoff to qualify.

 

All is not lost though since only one point separates the top four teams, which make every game critical in the positioning for the top three spots. However, if the results remain consistent to the the run of play in the tournament thus far USA, Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico will emerge as the top four teams after this Wednesday’s contests.

 

El Salvador is dangerous and can be a hand full for Costa Rica whiles the Soca Warriors under coach Latapy, may have a point to prove against USA.

 

Marvin Andrews was the captain of the Soca Warriors in Honduras and Jlloyd Samuel from Bolton Wanderers inserted into the starting line up. Needless to say, the Soca Warriors defensive effort against Honduras was a disaster losing the game 4-1.

Dwight York made his retirement official and assumed the position as Latapy’s assistant coach for the remainder of the campaign while Dennis Lawrence will wear the captain armband for the USA game.

While some are saying that the Soca Warriors have nothing to lose against USA, Latapy is still the interim coach of the Soca Warriors and assessment of his ability to do the job will be evaluated after the qualifiers if not before.

 

Trinidad and Tobago football is in the hands of the U-20 team that has qualified for the 2009 FIFA World Cup in Egypt in September, and Latapy has to show that he is better suited for the Soca Warriors coaching job than the U-20 coach Zoran Vranes is.

 

With the Warriors having very little chance of making it to the World Cup Finals in South Africa next year, and coach Latapy dismissing any notion that his team will lie down and let USA run away with the game only time will tell how he handle his troops.

 

After sitting out a one-game suspension on Saturday, Dennis Lawrence is expected to rejoin the Warriors while USA defender Oguchi Onyewu will return to the line-up.

 

 

 

T&T, Mexico and Honduras, start 2nd half of 2010 CONCACAFqualifiers with wins

Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors defeated El Salvador 1-0 to register its first win of the final round of the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup South Africa qualifying matches. The game was played at the Hasley Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain as the Warriors finally protect their home turf.

 

Cornell Glen provided T&T with the lone goal in the 7th minute, but after an eventful first half the Warriors had to defend down to the final whistle. Heading into the El Salvador game the Soca Warriors were winless in their previous five matches in the final round.

 

The win was the first for coach Latapy who changed his roster and juggled his line up in search of chemistry and a winning formula. Against El Salvador Latapy made five changes from his Mexico’s starting eleven by adding a mixture of youth and experience.

 

Clyde Leon, Keston Williams, Cornell Glenn, and Silvio Spann received the nudge with Dennis Lawrence as team captain, while the experienced Dwight Yorke, Chris Birchall, Marvin Andrew, and Jason Scotland were waiting on the T&T bench to secure a lead.

 

Kerry Baptiste and Hayden Tinto the young players were waiting in the wings in case a spark was needed to ignite the Warriors offense. As it turned out, Yorke (71), Birchall (62) and Scotland (83) were utilized and had more than their hands full in holding off a surging El Salvador.

 

However, in spite of a less than adequate ball possession game, Latapy got his first three points as coach of the T&T flagship since taking over the job three games ago from Francisco Maturana who resigned.

 

In moving forward, the Soca Warriors could be in trouble since the home field X Factor trend is continuing, after Mexico erased an early USA lead to defeat the Americans 2-1 at the Aztec Stadium in Mexico.

 

Charlie Davies scored in the 9th minute to give USA the early lead, but Israel Castro equalized before the half. Miguel Sabah scored the game winner in the 82nd minute which gave Mexico the 2-1 victory and back to back wins over USA which includes ther 5-0 Gold Cup victory.

 

The win put El Tricolor back into the swing of things with nine points, but Mexico is no further ahead in the standings since Honduras defeated group leader Costa Rica 4-0 at San Pueblo to jump into second place.

 

Carlos Pavon and Costly provided the Catrachos with the first half scores while in injury time, second half substitute Melvin Valladares and Costly with his second score put the game out of Costa Rica’s reach.

 

As it stands, Honduras is in second place in the “hexagonal” standings with 10 points, within two points of Costa Rica and ahead of USA in third spot on goal difference. Mexico is in fourth with 9 points followed by El Salvador and T&T with 5 points.

 

The next matches of the CONCACAF 2010 qualifiers are on September 5th with Honduras remaining at home to host T&T. Group leader Costa Rica will be at home against Mexico in San Jose, while USA tries to stop the bleeding when they take on El Salvador in the United States.

 

Mexico defeat USA to win its 5th Gold Cup title

East Rutherford, New Jersey: Mexico surprised USA here at Giants Stadium before a sold out crowd of 79,156 of mostly Mexico supporters.  El Tricolor humiliated USA with five unanswered goals in the second half to win its fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup title 5-0.

 

With the win Mexico end the United States 58 game unbeaten streak against CONCACAF opponents and with it end their 10 year winless streak at 15 games against the Americans outside of Mexico. 

 

The result of the Gold Cup final has made the final round of the CONCACAF 2010 qualifiers all the more interesting with the emergence of their young and talented marquee midfielder De Santos.

 

De Santos opened up the game with his creativity and after drawing a penalty which gave Mexico the lead. He scored the second goal to start the rout as substitute Vela, Jose Antonio and Franco round off the scoring to put the finishes touches to a disputed penalty, which captain Torrado converted.

 The penalty was awarded in the 56 minute when De Santos became entangled with defender Jay Heaps and referee Courtney Campbell pointed to the penalty spot much to the delight of the partisan Mexican crowd.

 

"I do not think it was a penalty," USA coach Bradley insisted at the press conference, but from my vantage point Bradley conveniently forgot that their was a second penalty overlooked by referee Campbell,  where De Santos was clearly brought down in the area after eluding his defender.

 

 

When asked to comment on the penalty De Santos responded "I think there was a second one that the referee didn't call, that was a lot cleaner than the first one," said Dos Santos. "But that is the way soccer is. The refs do their jobs just like we do ours. The end of the game was ours and everything went our way."

 

In sport for the most part you get what you put in and although USA has been playing inspired soccer throughout the tournament, it is no secret that coach Bradley was juggling a 30 man roster which took its tool on the continuity, chemistry and quality of the American team.

 

Mexico’s seems to be building their team around Gold Cup MVP Giovani De Santos who at the age of 20 has a tremendous future after stints with Barcelona, Ipswich Town, and now Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premiership.

 

Coach Aguirre is also coming into his own with timely changes after his 3-game suspension. Aguirre pivotal move was the halftime substitution of Vela for Medina. Vela combined with De Santos and contributed to the scoring with a goal and two assists.

 

The first half of play was fairly even but one could sense that USA was having trouble offensively after breaking up a lot of Mexico ill advise crosses in the air which favored the taller USA defenders.

 

Mexico had success when De Santos utilized his dribbling ability to penetrate the USA defense which created space for his team mates. However, #7 Alberto Medina was muffing most of the plays in which Mexico could have surged ahead.

Medina did not help his cause when he failed to get off a shot just before the half after being wide open on a glorious  scoring opportunity. Needless to say he was replaced by Vela for the second half.

 

In the second half Mexico attack had a definite punch with Vela combining with De Santos to draw the penalty which gave Mexico the lead. Then six minutes later De Santos scored on a rebound to double the Mexico.

 

Then came the back breaker in the 67th minute when De Santos fed Vela for the third goal to give Mexico and its fans a premature party celebration. Vela was the spark plug in the second half and in the 79th minute he set up Jose Castro to give Mexico a 4-0 lead.

 

Guillermo Franco provided Mexico with its the fifth and final score as Mexico walk away with its fifth Gold Cup title. With the historic win over USA the Mexican supporters are hopeful that their team can climb back as the #1 team in CONCACAF.

 

However, before that can happen Mexico will have to take care of USA in their next World Cup qualifier game on August 12th in Mexico.

 

"We were expecting to win this game before it was even played, but not with such a wide difference." Coach Aguirre explained "The 90 minutes that we played against the U.S. ends today and on August 12, we have another game.

 

CONCACAF Gold Cup Final Four

Honduras defeat Canada 1-0 last Saturday to advance into the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi finals. The Catrachos secured their quarterfinal win from a penalty converted by Walter Martinez in the first half of play.

With the win Honduras secured its third appearance in the semi finals of the Gold Cup and has marked the occasion with its third victory over Canada in their last three meetings which includes the two 2010 W-C qualifier matches.

However, although Honduras record is impressive against Canada, the games between the teams are close and this one was no different. The Catrachos was awarded a penalty in the 36th minute when Canada defender and team captain Paul Staltieri was cautioned for a questionable infraction on striker Martinez.

Staltieri argued the call for what many thought was a handball infraction, but it as it turned out it was revealed that Staltieri yellow card caution was for tugging Martinez's jersey after disputing the decision by Salvadoran referee.

When Hart was asked about the penalty against his team, he responded, "From the end of the bench, it looked phantom to me". The recipient Martinez, did not help the referee’s caused when he disclosed through a translator “All referees make mistakes and are human”, and “I didn't think it was a penalty, but I was able to score."

My version of the penalty situation is that although the foul that drew the penalty could have been overlooked; a penalty could have been easily given earlier in the game for what I consider a more serious infraction against Staltieri on the same player (Martinez) in the area.

However, on this day Canada did not score or make use of their chances in a game which a winner had to emerge and while Julian De Guzman coordinated the midfield plays, Canada vertical game was too slow developing against a fast Honduras team.

Canada cross balls on set plays especially corner kicks were low and short and there was limited penetration on the flank. Honduras deserves credit for neutralizing  the Canadian midfield and has evolved into a formidable force in the CONCACAF region.

"I'm very proud of the players,"  "I think we showed a lot of character." Canada interim coach Stephen Hart maintained

Canada has made significant progress in the short time that Stephen Hart has returned to the men senior team, and it is my belief that the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) should give Hart a long-term contract as the head coach of the team.

In the second quarterfinal at Lincoln Financial Field, USA was in yet another dramatic finish after defeating Panama 2-1 on a Kenny Cooper penalty scored in the first half of overtime in front of a crowd of 31,087.

The semi final stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup is set for Thursday at Chicago's Soldier Field where USA and Honduras will tangle for a second time in the tournament, and Mexico take on Costa Rica in the other semi final match.

Revenge and tactical awareness would be a factor for Honduras after coming up on the short end of a 2-0 decision in the group stage. The two coach’s response to my question to them about their assessment of the tempo of the game indicated that this second meeting would be a tactical battle.

Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda was convinced that his team had the speed to get the job done and reinforced that notion after his team latest win over Canada, while USA coach Bradley was confident that as long as the game is wide open, his team athleticism gives them the better chance to win.

However, the Mexico-Costa Rica semi final is a different type of game base on the similar styles of the teams which makes the game too close to call unless one of the teams has a big letdown which seems remote after their last game.

Both Mexico and Costa Rica are coming off impressive offensively displays after defeating Haiti 4-0 and Guadeloupe 5-1 respectively. However, the game is a big test for Mexico to resurface as a force in the region but would be tested severely without their suspended coach Aguirre.

A Mexico win and Aguirre would return to the team for the final, but a loss to Costa Rica and Aguirre life could be a bunch of nerves, since he would have to get his team ready for an all important World Cup qualifier game on August 12.

With USA and Costa Rica as their two next opponents in the World Cup qualifiers, and the same two teams on his plate in reverse order if successful at the 2009 Gold Cup, Aguirre and his Mexico team would have to be ready or face the thought of playing a South American team to qualify to South Africa.

 

Brazil defeat USA 3-2 to win Confederation Cup

Brazil showed character to defeat USA 3-2 to win the FIFA 2009 Confederation Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa.  In the semi final the Brazilians struggled with host South Africa and had to utilize a well taken free kick in the 88th minute to salvage a 1-0 win and its right to play USA in the final.

USA on the other hand entered the Confederation final beaming with confidence after defeating Spain, the number one ranked team in the world on goals by Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey and a strong defensive performance.

Brazil was favored heading into the final, but USA could not be taken lightly. It was a given that Brazil would have the advantage in the ball possession, but many felt that it would have been a good match up of Brazil high powered offense which had average over three goals a game and USA stingy defense.

As it turned out it was USA offense that struck first, although Brazil had their share of early chances.  USA opened the scoring on a goal by Dempsey at the 10th minute, after he redirected Jonathan Spector’s cross from just inside the penalty spot to beat keeper Julio Cesar inside the far post.

The stage was set for an exciting encounter when the Americans did not let up and followed up the opening goal with a second score from Landon Donavan to take a 2-0 halftime lead. Many felt we had a game on our hands in the second half.

Brazil offense had not been shutout to that point in the tournament and USA was cashing in on counter attacks. To add to the suspense Brazil had not win after being in two-goal deficit games on four previous occasions under Brazil coach Dunga.

However, Brazil did not waste any time in trying to dispel the myth in the second half to stage after Luis Fabiano scored in the 46th minute and equalized in the 74th minute to start Brazil dramatic come-back, which occurred when Lucio added the winner in the 84th minute to earn Brazil its third title.

Although many may say that the Brazil victory was inevitable since Brazil soccer is superior to that of the Americans, for me it was USA inexperience that cost them and was the difference in the game as it took its toll on the players towards the end of the game.

USA was playing in their first world final in its history, while Brazil is a five-time World Cup champ for the 14th time in 15 tries and has earned its second title in two weeks. Championship experience is extremely valuable when going into a final and although USA fans may have felt that it looked like it was their destiny due of their emotional rollercoaster after having to rally after losses to Italy (3-1) and Brazil (3-0) before defeating Egypt 3-0 to reach the semi final against Spain, it did not turn out that way.

However, I am of the belief that USA have proven that they are the #1 team in CONCACAF and that soccer in the region is not that far away from a world championship at the senior level. USA captain Donavan could not have said it any better when questioned.

 "Yeah we’re disappointed. To give up goal so fast in the second half hurt," Donovan said. "Give credit to them, they kept coming in wave after wave; they probably deserved to win.

"But it's a disappointing when we gave such a great effort.'

On the flip side Brazil coach Dunga was ecstatic after winning the Cup which has extended Brazil’s winning streak to eight and unbeaten string to 16.

“Even when we went 2-0 down, we still believed we would win. To come back from this deficit you need a team of men”

 Dunga became the only man to win the FIFA Confederations Cup as a player and coach.

 "We were very determined. To come back from this deficit you need a team of men. I'm proud of my players."

Lucio and Luis Fabiano, were instrumental in Brazil’s Confederation Cup win and finished atop of the Castrol Index to seize the Adidas Golden Shoe respectively.

While Kaka, was named Budweiser Man of the Match in the final and won the Adidas Golden Ball as the MVP of the Tournament

It was a bitter sweet situation for USA, who can take tremendous pride in their effort to reach the final and giving a good account of themselves and a good representation for CONCACAF.

However coach Bradley and his USA team would have to learn from their experience or lack of it after giving up three unanswered goal in the second half to lose the Confederation Cup 3-2 and Bradley explained.

 "The experience for our players in South Africa has been very special. It's something we'll remember and use as motivation to be back here next year for the World Cup."

Besides Brazil and USA South Africa and the supporters made the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup a tremendous success.

 

Daniel Alves fires Brazil into final

FIFA.COM /24/2009 - BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa – Brazil edged South Africa 1-0 in a very tight semi-final thanks to Daniel Alves's brilliant late free-kick. The Barcelona wing-back only entered the fray in the latter stages, but his 88th-minute rocket finally undid goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

The game kicked off to the sound of vuvuzelas reverberating around the stadium, and within seconds, so too was the roar of 'Booooooth' as South Africa's towering defender got his first touch. Teko Modise drew gasps from his adoring supporters in the fourth minute by bursting past two opponents before Lucio aborted the attack, and Felipe Melo did brilliantly to dispossess Steven Pienaar after the Everton playmaker had wriggled away from two markers down the left.

South Africa had begun brightly, but it was Brazil who created the first opportunity on 14 minutes. Maicon galloped down the right flank and neatly cut the ball back for Luis Fabiano, on the edge of the area. The Sevilla striker squared the ball for Ramires, whose left-foot shot was gathered by goalkeeper Khune.

Bafana Bafana instantly responded with an opportunity of their own. Siboniso Gaxa won the ball inside the opposition half, raced forward and unleashed a piercing, 30-yard drive that went narrowly wide of Julio Cesar's right post. Aaron Mokoena came even closer to breaking the deadlock on 21 minutes, heading a pinpoint Modise free-kick inches over when unmarked.

Another set-piece, this time a direct shot on goal from Tsepo Masilela, was tipped over by Julio Cesar on 27 minutes. Kaka then sprung to life, collecting the ball in midfield, accelerating past two adversaries and feeding Ramires, who, well placed inside the South Africa box, failed to control the ball. Ten minutes before half-time, Andre Santos employed fine technique to test Khune, who was nonetheless equal to his long-range attempt.

Kaka was next to try his luck. The Brazil No10 raced inside from the left and curled a trademark effort just wide of the post, and the same player forced a save out of Khune, following another charge into opposition territory, with the half running out. There was still time for Pienaar to shoot narrowly wide from 25 yards and to block a fierce Andre Santos free-kick, before the referee's whistle brought an entertaining, albeit goalless, half to a close.

Brazil swiftly assumed the initiative upon resumption of the second half. First, Kaka sprinted down the left touchline, before darting inside and winning a corner, which came to nothing. Then, Maicon played a one-two with Luis Fabiano and crossed for Kaka, who headed over but had been penalised for a foul anyway.

The pendulum then swung in the favour of Joel Santana's side. Pienaar's on-target shot was blocked by Luisao, before a Modise shot took a wicked deflection off the aforementioned defender and forced Julio Cesar to dive to his left and tip the ball round his upright. This spell of pressure prompted vociferous shouts from the South African faithful.

Luis Fabiano and Robinho then wasted half-chances inside the Bafana Bafana box, but it was the underdogs who were doing the majority of the pressing. And when Masilela cruised past two Brazilians down the left wing, his ensuing cross was just inches too high for the leaping Bernard Parker.

In the end the Brazilians needed a set piece to seal the deal and book a place in the final against the United States, who they beat 3-0 in the first round. After a foul on the edge of the area by Mokoena, substitute Daniel Alves curled his shot home with his right boot to end the Africans' brave fight.
 

U.S. shocks Spain 2-0 in Confederations Cup semifinals

The United States ended Spain’s 15-game winning streak with a 1-0 victory on Wednesday, upsetting the European champion with goals by Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey to reach the final of the Confederations Cup for the first time.

The result was the Americans’ first victory in four attempts against the op-ranked Spanish, which also saw its record 35-match unbeaten streak ended.

The United States played an inspired first half, creating several chances. But it played nearly the second half in its own end, finishing with 10 men, and survived with a collective defensive effort highlighted by key performances by central defender Oguchi Onyewu and goalkeeper Tim Howard, and Dempsey’s goal against the run of play.

Onyewu constantly anticipated passes and diffused danger while Howard made several saves that looked like sure goals.

"We played as hard as we could. That's what it took," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "We'll take a few hours to regroup. We're so excited about this."

The victory puts the United States into Sunday’s final against either host South Africa or a rematch against Brazil. Brazil beat the Americans 3-0 in the first round.

The United States took nearly four minutes before it gained any meaningful possession, but then started looking dangerous beginning with a bicycle attempt by Charlie Davies in the seventh minute that went wide left.

Fernando Torres and Sergio Ramos troubled the U.S. defense, but Spain also found itself tested with a shot from distance by Landon Donovan in the 21st minute.

Altidore, who plays in Spain for Xerez, converted in the 27th minute, taking a ball from Dempsey at his feet, muscling off Joan Capdevilla at the top of the penalty area, turning and shooting. Diving Spain keeper Iker Casillas managed to get his right hand to deflect the ball, but it only slightly altered the path as it bounced in off the left post.

It was the first goal allowed by Spain in the tournament.

The United States continued to create chances in the first half, but appeared overwhelmed by Spain after the break. The Spanish created no fewer than five chances in the first 11 minutes of the second half, and the Americans looked ready to break.

The U.S. gave away the ball cheaply in the middle third, inviting repeated attacks. But it occasionally broke free and in the 74th, Donovan worked open down the right side, and his cross was slightly deflected by Gerard Pique before Ramos’ stopped it. Dempsey was positioned at the left post, turned and struck the ball under Casillas for the insurance.

The Americans played the final four minutes down a man after Michael Bradley was ejected for a physical foul, the third time in four games the U.S. had man red carded.

The victory probably comes as one of the biggest in U.S. soccer history, along with its victory over England in the 1950 World Cup, its win over Trinidad to qualify for the 1990 World Cup, and its victory over Brazil in the 1998 Gold Cup.

 

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