CONCACAF 2014 World Cup qualifying: Mexico can rescue a disastrous campaign

Jeff Zelevansky

More likely than not, Mexico will end up playing New Zealand for a place in the World Cup, but qualifying directly isn't out of the question for them.

Update: Miracle United States rally sees Mexico qualify for playoff

There's a lot of potential for CONCACAF's Tuesday fixtures to provide minimal drama. For anything to change dramatically, two of Costa Rica, the United States and Honduras have to choke in pretty dramatic fashion. The Hondurans are facing off against a Jamaica team that's already looking forward to the next Gold Cup and qualifying cycle, while Costa Rica won't roll over for Mexico and the U.S. have picked a good team despite already being assured qualification heading into this set of fixtures.

Already qualified

United States, Costa Rica - They were both in before Friday's games, actually. The United States has sent home a handful of players who they're concerned about being suspended for the finals and will probably be a bit more concerned with avoiding injuries and red cards than anything else. Meanwhile, Costa Rica has called in their best team and would probably love to spoil Mexico's day.

In good shape

Honduras - If they draw or beat Jamaica, they're going to the World Cup. Jamaica has been very respectable at home in qualifying and are unlikely to lie down for the Hondurans, but they're also in experimental mode at the moment. They knew heading into this set of international dates that they had virtually no chance of making the World Cup playoff and called in some younger players that could be the stars of their team in their campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. So, on one hand, Jamaica are playing inexperienced players. On the other hand, they're probably hungrier than veterans would be and are fighting to keep their places in the team.

Probably booking a flight to New Zealand

Mexico - El Tri will qualify directly for the World Cup if Honduras lose in Jamaica and they pull off a win in Costa Rica. That's certainly not an impossible scenario, but not a likely one either. It helps Mexico that Costa Rica are already headed to Brazil, but the prospect of beating Mexico should be motivation enough for the Ticos to show up and bring their best. Victor Manuel Vucetich looks to have righted the ship, but even two wins from two games are likely to be too little, too late.

Not dead yet

Panama - The Panamanians are two goals behind Mexico on goal differential, but have scored more goals. Because the Canaleros have a sizable goal scorer advantage on El Tri, as long as the match in Costa Rica isn't an insane seven-goal thriller, expect Panama to beat Mexico to a playoff spot with any one-goal win and any one-goal loss for Mexico. This scenario is quite a bit more likely than a Jamaica win and a Mexico win. El Tri are much closer to missing out on the playoff than they are to qualifying for the finals directly.

We hardly knew you

Jamaica - Tough luck, guys. Hopefully Alvas Powell, Deshorn Brown and Darren Mattocks are superstars by the time the next qualifying matches roll around.

What to watch for on Tuesday

How much do the United States care? - They looked a bit slow at home against Jamaica. They might look even more sluggish away to Panama. If the U.S. is at their best, they'll draw or beat Panama, but it shouldn't be stunning if the hosts score early to put the pressure on Mexico.

Does Vucetich make any changes? - Mexico's new boss frequently adjusted his personnel and formations based on his opponent and the game situation during his spell at Monterrey. He's not the type of coach to decide that he's going to pick whatever 11 players he likes the best and try to play his favored style of football, regardless of what he's coming up against. Don't expect to see the exact same team that he played against Panama. After all, predictability and stubbornness on the part of 'Chepo' Jose Manuel de la Torre are what led to the Ticos getting a point at the Azteca.

Do Jamaica have any quality on the counter? - Jamaica's athleticism in midfield and surprisingly solid defense have led to them generating plenty of chances on the break during the Hex. However, their final pass and shooting have been poor. Mattocks and Brown have been inconsistent with flashes of brilliance in MLS this season and Honduras could be in trouble if the best versions of both show up.

Schedule (all times ET)

Costa Rica vs. Mexico - 9:30 p.m.
Jamaica vs. Honduras - 9:30 p.m.
Panama vs. United States - 9:30 p.m.

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