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US victory sees Mexico limp into playoff

Updated: 2013-10-17 07:14
By Agence France-Presse in Los Angeles ( China Daily)

Mexico's 2014 World Cup hopes survived a 2-1 loss at Costa Rica on Tuesday, but only thanks to archrival the United States, whose two injury-time goals spelled heartbreak for Panama.

On a wild final night of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean, Honduras punched its ticket to Brazil on cue with a 2-2 draw at last-placed Jamaica.

It claimed the third and final automatic qualifying berth from the region behind the United States and Costa Rica.

Mexico, the longtime regional powerhouse which has played in every World Cup since 1990, has endured a dismal qualifying campaign.

US victory sees Mexico limp into playoff

But it finished fourth in the table to earn a playoff next month against Oceania's New Zealand for a berth - thanks to late heroics that saw the United States down Panama 3-2 and end Panama's hopes of seizing the playoff spot.

On a rain-sodden pitch in San Jose, second-half substitute Alvaro Saborio scored the winner for Costa Rica, heading past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in the 64th minute.

Mexico seemed done for shortly thereafter when in Panama City, Luis Tejada struck to give Panama a 2-1 lead over the US.

But Graham Zusi scored for the US two minutes into injury time and Aaron Johannsson added another to seal a 3-2 US triumph.

The dramas playing out in San Jose and Panama City reduced Honduras' clinching draw in Kingston to a footnote.

Carlo Costly showed just how determined the Hondurans were to claim a second straight - and third overall - World Cup trip, when he opened the scoring in the first minute.

Jamaica struck back just two minutes later through Je-Vaughn Watson, but Honduras held a 2-1 lead at halftime thanks to Maynor Figueroa's 33rd-minute strike.

Even Rodolph Austin's 58th-minute penalty for Jamaica couldn't spoil it for Honduras, which came into the match needing just one point to secure third place.

The US finished the "hexagonal" final round on 22 points, with Costa Rica second on 18 and Honduras third on 15.

Mexico wrapped up fourth place with 11 points, three more than Panama, and Mexico manager Victor Vucetich said he was sure his side could triumph over New Zealand in the home-and-away playoff next month.

"I definitely think we can beat New Zealand," he said. "I am completely confident in that sense. We know we have capable people who maybe are having a difficult time, but we have confidence in everyone and we feel that we will advance."

 US victory sees Mexico limp into playoff

Honduras' Maynor Figueroa (3) celebrates with teammate Carlos Costly after he scored the team's second goal against host Jamaica in their CONCACAF qualifier in Kingston on Tuesday. Honduras won 2-1 to qualify for the World Cup. Gilbert Bellamy / Reuters

(China Daily 10/17/2013 page22)