Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

FIFA World Cup Review – North and Central America

Posted in International Football, North and Central American Football by peterbein on July 12, 2010
Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan secured the USA a place in the last sixteen of the FIFA World Cup

Stoppage Time – International Football Blog continues to review each of the respective continental fortunes in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Here we look at the three nations that comprised the challenge from the CONCACAF North and Central American region.

The United States qualified for their sixth straight FIFA World Cup finals and were hoping to reach at least the quarter-finals to equal their best ever performance. The Americans were involved in some of South Africa’s most memorable and controversial moments for as long as they were in the tournament. Their opening group match against England saw them fall behind after just four minutes to a Steven Gerrard goal but they restored parity five minutes before the break when England keeper Robert Green hilariously let the ball slip his grasp to gift Clint Dempsey the equalizer. They also had to come from behind to salvage a point against Slovenia who were two goals to the good at half time before Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley brought them level. With Slovenia on the ropes Maurice Edu thought he’d won the game with five minutes remaining but the referee disallowed the goal for a foul which nobody saw. The final group match against Algeria saw more late drama as, with the game goalless and deep into stoppage time, Landon Donovan scored from six yards out to give the USA top spot in the group over England and a round of sixteen encounter against Ghana. Sadly for coach Bob Bradley his team were unable to progress when it mattered as they dominated a second half in which they came back from a 1-0 half time deficit. But the game went into extra-time where Asamoah Gyan wrote history for the Africans with a beautifully struck goal which knocked the Americans out of the competition.

Having had a terrible start to World Cup qualifying the Mexicans had steadied the ship under coach Javier Aguirre and were quietly optimistic that they could qualify from their group. Mexico had the pleasure of participating in the opening game of the tournament against hosts South Africa who took the lead after 55 minutes after Siphiwe Tshabalala. The Bafana Bafana were to rue some late lack of concentration when Rafael Márquez equalized with twenty minutes to go and ensured that Mexico would gain a point from the match. The second game brought more joy for El Tri where they got the better of a French side beset by infighting and a lack of morale. Javier Hernández and Cuauhtémoc Blanco scored the goals which put paid to French hopes and gave them a top of the group clash with Uruguay to decide the group. The Mexicans, sadly for them, lost their final group match to a Luis Suárez goal and this meant that they finished second in the group and had a clash with Argentina in the round of sixteen stage for the second consecutive tournament. When the game took place Mexico were fuming about Carlos Tévez’s opening goal in which he was stood in an offside position but hadn’t been spotted by the officials. Once Gonzalo Higuaín had made it 2-0 there was really no way back for the Mexicans, who had to watch Tévez score his second before pulling one back through Javier Hernández in a 3-1 defeat which signalled the end of the road.

The final team from the CONCACAF region to be represented were Honduras who were in the same group as European champions Spain, Chile and Switzerland. In their opening game against Chile it was to be disappotment for Los Catrachos when Jean Beausejour’s 34th minute strike was enough to separate the two teams and lead Honduras to defeat. Their second game saw them go down to a double strike from David Villa in a game the Spanish should’ve won with more goals but, in the end, Honduras had to be grateful just for conceding two especially as Villa missed a penalty kick which would’ve seen him score a hat trick. Honduras’ final group match against Switzerland was one of the worst matches of the tournament and was no surprise when it finished as a goalless draw. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and Honduras celebrated their first and only point in South Africa even if they couldn’t prevent themselves finishing bottom of the group.

So what about the future? The next tournament in Brazil in four years time may provide some benefit to the nations that qualify from CONCACAF as they may be more adept at acclimatizing to the conditions than some of their opponents. But even if one doesn’t take that in to consideration one can only hope that this region does provide a meaningful challenge in the near future as the potential of countries such as the big two, Mexico and the United States, is as yet unrealized in this competition. The former have only qualified for the last eight on two occasions whilst the latter’s third place in the inaugural FIFA World Cup in 1930 is too far in the past to have any significance today. Expectations after their 2002 quarter-final appearance may have reached unrealistic proportions going into the 2006 tournament where the USA failed to get past the group stage but the talent is growing steadily in that region and we can hope that one of them might trouble the usual suspects in 2014.

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