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CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Opponent Capsules


COSTA RICA
Federation Name: Federación Costarricense de Futbol
Founded: 1921
FIFA Ranking: 57
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Record (W-L-T): 63-32-31
2010 WCQ Record: 7-0-1 (20GF, 3GA)
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 1990, 2002, 2006
Manager: Rodrigo Kenton
Leading Goalscorers in 2010 WCQ: Bryan Ruiz (4); Armando Alonso (3); Frolyn Ledezma (2)
U.S. vs. Costa Rica all-time: 11-10-5 (28GF, 29GA)
vs. Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying: 5-7-2 (13GF, 16GA)
WCQ vs. Costa Rica At Home: 5-1-1 (8GF, 2GA)
WCQ vs. Costa Rica Away: 0-6-1 (5GF, 14GA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Costa Rica breezed through to the Final Round as the only team in CONCACAF that remains undefeated in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. After getting a win and a draw in the Second Round against Grenada, the Ticos manhandled Group 3 that included El Salvador, Haiti, and Suriname, pumping in 20 goals while surrendering only three.

OUTLOOK: Costa Rica is hoping to make their third straight World Cup, and fourth in the last six. The Ticos were disappointed in their performance in Germany, losing all three matches to Germany, Ecuador and Poland. Wily veteran Walter Centeno still plays a major role along with a host of other veterans like Harold Wallace, Alonso Solis and William Sunsing. Chicago Fire defender Gonzalo Segares has been one of the rocks in the back. Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose is one of the most intimidating venues in the Western Hemisphere, but Costa Rica will have to improve on their suspect performances on the road if they want to earn a ticket to South Africa. With their experience and almost sure-fire points at home, the Ticos are a favorite to be in the top three in the group.

VS U.S.: The U.S. and Costa Rica are nearly evenly split throughout the series history, each team maintaining dominance on home soil. The U.S. has never won a qualifying match in Costa Rica, going 0-6-1 lifetime. The teams met in the final round of 2006 World Cup qualifying, with the U.S. turning in one of their finest performances of the stage in the 3-0 win on June 4, 2005, in front of a raucous crowd in Salt Lake. Landon Donovan paced the U.S. with two goals while Kasey Keller made several spectacular saves. With the U.S. already through to Germany, the Ticos returned the favor by earning a matching 3-0 scoreline on the return leg in San Jose on Oct. 8 at Estadio Saprissa.


EL SALVADOR
Federation Name: Federación Salvadoreña de Fútbol
Founded: 1921
FIFA Ranking: 109
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Record (W-L-T): 53-35-21
2010 WCQ Record: 7-2-1 (30 GF, 6 GA)
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 1970, 1982
Manager: Carlos de los Cobos (Mexico)
Leading Goalscorers in 2010 WCQ: Rudis Corrales (7); Ronald Cerritos (5); Rodolfo Zelaya, Eliseo Quintanilla, Shawn Martin (3)
U.S. vs. El Salvador all-time: 13-1-4 (41 GF, 10 GA)
vs. El Salvador in World Cup qualifying: 4-0-2 (10 GF, 3 GA)
WCQ vs. El Salvador At Home: 2-0-1 (6 GF, 2 GA)
WCQ vs. El Salvador Away: 1-0-1 (3 GF, 1 GA)
WCQ vs. El Salvador Neutral: 1-0-0 (1 GF, 0 GA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: El Salvador has been in it since the first round, pounding Anguilla by an aggregate score of 16-0 before getting past Panama in the second phase in a series that included an impressive 1-0 win in Panama City. Drawn with Costa Rica, Suriname and Haiti, the Salvadorans comfortably took second place in Group 3 while posting a 3-1-2 record.

OUTLOOK: Despite some promising talents throughout the years, El Salvador has not reached the World Cup finals since 1982. There’s plenty of firepower and experience on the current roster, led by Rudis Corrales and Ronald Cerritos. Coached by former Mexican international Carlos de los Cobos – who played in the 1986 World Cup – the Salvadorans have proved adept at scoring goals; however, their two losses to Costa Rica both home and away in the Semifinal Round may hold ominous portents for their chances of ending their World Cup drought.

VS U.S.: The U.S. has dominated the series against El Salvador, with only a single blemish on the 13-1-4 lifetime record. The U.S. has been particularly imposing in World Cup qualifying, posting an unbeaten 4-0-2 record. The teams last squared off in the semifinal phase of qualifying for Germany, the U.S. collecting a pair of 2-0 wins in Foxboro and San Salvador. Donovan and Ching did the business in Boston, while goals from McBride and his replacement Eddie Johnson earned the victory in El Salvador.


HONDURAS
Federation Name: Federación Nacional Autónoma de Fútbol de Honduras
Founded: 1951
FIFA Ranking: 46
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Record (W-L-T): 39-28-25
2010 WCQ Record: 6-2-0 (15GF, 7GA)
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 1982
Manager: Reynaldo Rueda (Colombia)
Leading Goalscorers in 2010 WCQ: David Suazo (3); Ramon Nunez, Julio Cesar de Leon (2)
U.S. vs. Honduras all-time: 7-2-3 (20 GF, 11 GA)
vs. Honduras in World Cup qualifying: 2-1-1 (6 GF, 5GA)
WCQ vs. Honduras At Home: 0-1-0 ( 2GF, 3GA)
WCQ vs. Honduras Away: 2-0-1 (4 GF, 2 GA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Honduras had one of the hardest mountains to climb in qualifying and can proudly claim they reached the summit. After dispatching Puerto Rico in the Second Round, the Catrachos were drawn into the most difficult of groups along with Mexico, Jamaica and Canada. After narrowly losing out away to Mexico in the opening game, Honduras reeled off three straight wins before falling to Jamaica in Kingston, setting up the dramatic final day. Needing a win to guarantee their place in the final round, the Hondurans pulled off a 1-0 shutout to vault past Mexico and claim first place in the group.

OUTLOOK: The Hondurans will be brimming with confidence, and are packing loads of experience. Team captain Amada Guevara headlines a group that includes seasoned veterans like lethal striker David Suazo, Julio Cesar de Leon, and Ivan Guerrero. Consistency remains a question mark, especially when the going gets tough. The Hondurans missed out on reaching the final phase last time around, and will be anxious to seize the moment and advance to their second-ever World Cup finals.

VS U.S.: The U.S. and Honduras have one of the more unusual histories between CONCACAF teams in qualifying. While they have played only four times, three of those matches took place in Honduras. The teams met in the Final Round of qualifying for Korea/Japan, the U.S. pulling off a 2-1 a win in San Pedro Sula on the strength of goals by Clint Mathis and Earnie Stewart. Then on Sept. 1, 2001, in Washington, D.C., a quick goal by Stewart looked promising for the U.S., but Honduras stormed back to a 3-2 win to hand the U.S. their last home loss in World Cup qualifying to date. Coincidentally, it was the Honduras home loss to T&T coupled with the U.S. win against Jamaica on Oct. 7, 2001, that guaranteed the USA’s ticket to Korea.

MEXICO
Federation Name: Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación
Founded: 1927
FIFA Ranking: 25
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Record (W-L-T): 86-18-26
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 13 – 1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970*, 1978, 1986*, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
2010 WCQ Record: 5-2-1 (18 GF, 6 GA)
Manager: Sven-Goran Eriksson (Sweden)
Leading Goalscorers in 2010 WCQ: Fernando Arce (3); Jared Borgetti, Carlos Vela (2)
U.S. vs. Mexico all-time: 14-30-10 (62 GF, 118 GA)
U.S. vs. Mexico in World Cup qualifying: 4-14-5 (26GF, 63GA)
WCQ vs. Mexico At Home: 3-3-2 (16GF, 17GA)
WCQ vs. Mexico Away: 0-12-1 (6GF, 44GA)
WCQ vs. Mexico at Neutral Site: 1-0-0 (4GF, 2GA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: It was not all smooth sailing for Mexico in the journey to the Final Round. After easily dispatching Belize in the second round, the conditions at Estadio Azteca remained predictably favorable for El Tri. Playing their first three games at home after hurricane damage forced Jamaica to switch their schedule, Mexico quickly grabbed nine points. After a loss to Jamaica away, the Mexicans were twice forced to come from behind to earn a point against already-eliminated Canada, setting up an intriguing final match day. They were leading the group on points, but a slip in Honduras combined with a big Jamaica victory could have seen them eliminated from competition. An own goal sank their efforts in the 1-0 loss in Honduras, and Jamaica nearly pulled off the miracle when they won 3-0 against Canada. Tied on points, it was Mexico who inched through to the Final Round on goal differential.

OUTLOOK: It’s been fits and starts for one of the perennial representatives from CONCACAF at the World Cup. After Hugo Sanchez’s volatile tenure as head coach ended, the Mexicans sought out a European pedigree and hired former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson to right the ship. The Mexicans are virtually impenetrable at home, holding a 63-1-4 lifetime record in qualifying. They still deploy a mix of veterans and rising stars, and many of their players now play their professional trade overseas. Leaders like Rafael Marquez, Pavel Pardo, Carlos Vela and Gerardo Torrado remain key parts of the mix, while they now include some naturalized citizens like Nery Castillo and Giovanni Dos Santos. El Tri is certainly still favored to be going to South Africa, but the world will be keeping a closer eye on Sven’s men in the Final Round.

VS U.S.: While Mexico holds a major lead in the all-time qualifying series, the U.S. has most certainly pulled even in the modern era. The United States has not lost at home to Mexico in a World Cup qualifier since 1972, and played two of their most memorable games in the previous two hexagonals. In the ‘Guerra Fria’ in Columbus on Feb. 28, 2002, goals by Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart lifted the U.S. to a 2-0 victory, a result that would be repeated a few times over. On Sept. 3, 2005, it was Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley’s turn to tally as another 2-0 victory booked the USA’s ticket to Germany. It’s been another story in Mexico, where the United States has never won. A 0-0 draw in 1997 remains the only point the U.S. has taken away in qualifying there, but the goal by Eddie Lewis in the 2-1 loss on March 27, 2005, eventually gave the U.S. the lead in goal differential, and thus first place in the final standings.


TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Federation Name: Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation
Founded: 1908
FIFA Ranking: 78
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Record (W-L-T): 43-38-22
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2006
2010 WCQ Record: 4-2-2 (12 GF, 8 GA)
Manager: Francisco Maturana (Colombia)
Leading Goalscorers in 2010 WCQ: Keon Daniel (4), Stern John (2)
U.S. vs. Trinidad All-time: 14-2-3 (29 GF, 3 GA)
U.S. vs. Trinidad in World Cup qualifying: 9-1-2 (17GF, 5GA)
WCQ vs. Trinidad At Home: 5-0-1 (10 GF, 1GA)
WCQ vs. Trinidad Away: 4-1-1 (7 GF, 4GA)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Trinidad & Tobago survived a scare in the Second Round, losing 2-1 to Barbados in the first leg before recording a 2-0 home to advance to the semifinal phase. Seeming to be battling Guatemala from the get-go for the second spot in the group, the teams shared the spoils by each earning a draw on the road. T&T capitalized on the penultimate matchday of the round, defeating the U.S. for the first time in World Cup qualifying history while Guatemala disastrously lost at Cuba. Already in the driver’s seat, the Soca Warriors ended all doubt by winning handily at home against the Cubans to move on to the Final Round.

OUTLOOK: Trinidad & Tobago are in some ways still basking in the glow of reaching the World Cup in 2006 in Germany. Managed by Francisco Maturana, they relied on old vets like Dwight Yorke, Stern John and Russell Latapy to push them through to the final group. While fast, physical and athletic, T&T are another team notorious for their road woes, and will need to continue to develop team discipline if they want another shot at the big dance.

VS U.S.: The U.S. holds a 14-2-3 lifetime record against Trinidad & Tobago, with the series dating back to 1982. The U.S. can also claim 10 shutouts against the Soca Warriors, with six of those coming on home turf. It has been more than 12 years since Trinidad & Tobago have scored during their travels to the U.S., with the last goal coming during a 3-2 loss in 1996 in Anaheim, Calif. The U.S. has owned the series in World Cup qualifying, although T&T will be buoyed by the 2-1 win on Oct. 15 in Port-of-Spain, their first-ever in qualifying against the United States. The teams met in the 2006 edition of Final Round qualifying; in fact, they met on the opening day of the group. Goals by Eddie Johnson and Eddie Lewis gave the U.S. a nice three points on the road to start the hexagonal, then Brian McBride did the business in the 1-0 win on Aug. 17, 2005, in East Hartford.


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