There's still a long way to go in World Cup qualifying, but the Hex is starting to really take shape in CONCACAF. Mexico and the United States played on Sunday night instead of on Tuesday to give the Mexicans time to get to Russia for the Confederations Cup which starts this weekend. The draw didn't really feel all that satisfactory for either side, but if we're being honest about the whole thing, it's a result that neither club should be all that unhappy with in the end.
Even though the Mexico media and fans will inevitably be really hard on Juan Carlos Osorio, they really need to take a look at the big picture. The Mexicans are sitting on 14 points through six matches in the Hex, and in all likelihood, they don't need to do a thing else in order to get to the World Cup. Since Osorio took over, the team has won on American soil against the United States twice, and securing four points in the two World Cup qualifiers against the biggest foes in the Hex should be looked at as a success, not an abject failure.
For the United States, to be able to go on the road and get a result at Estadio Azteca is always a good thing. It was only the third time the Americans have ever secured anything positive in World Cup qualifying on Mexican soil.
Of course, the Yanks still have plenty of work to do. They're only 2-2-2 through six fixtures. If they come back in September and score a home win over Costa Rica, that figures to be the end of the hard work. The Americans still have to play at Honduras, home against Panama and away to Trinidad & Tobago, but there's no reason not to get at least one more win in those fixtures. Toss in a couple draws, and the United States will be on its way to Russia in 2018.
Costa Rica is the team that really has the opportunity in front of it. On Tuesday night, Los Ticos will face Trinidad & Tobago at home. If that match is won, that will put Costa Rica on 11 points, and that might ultimately be enough to reach Russia as well.
The real question is going to come with that fourth place slot. Panama is in the driver's seat right now. The Panamanians have picked up two massive results at home, matching draws against Mexico and the United States. If they can hold serve at home against Honduras, they'll be on nine points with four matches left. There are still two big ones at Mexico and the United States that will probably both be lost, so securing all the points that can be had will be crucial for a squad that has never been to the World Cup.
Everything is left to play for, though. Trinidad & Tobago has a win over this Panama team already at home, while Honduras has four points, including a big draw at home versus Costa Rica. Any given three points could be massive for any of these teams at the bottom.
The unfortunate reality for the fourth place finisher in the Hex though, is that there's still a long road to get to Russia. The fifth place team from Asia will have to be beaten in November in the intercontinental playoff, and duels against the most likely contenders of Japan, Saudi Arabia or Australia seem to be menacing at best.
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