Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Canada Number 1 (!)

"Canada number 1" is something I have never said before, but it is the truth in the CONCACAF region´s qualifiers, where the top three qualify directly for Qatar, while the fourth gest a play-off. Although everyone who has been watching Canada lately knows that the team, captained by the phenomenal Alphonse Davies from Bayern Munich, is to be reckoned with, their rise culminated yesterday with a 2-1 victory over Mexico, the team that has historically always dominated CONCACAF. Canada already tied 1-1 in Mexico City, and recent victories over Costa Rica and Panama has put them on top, and we should all be looking forward to a clash between USA and Canada, going for first spot. 

Mexico, traditionally dominant in CONCACAF has fallen to third place after their two defeats to USA and Canada respectively, with 14 points, alongside Panama on fourth spot, also with 14 points. That said, it appears that the top four in CONCACAF is taking shape: after defeating El Salvador 2-1, Panama and Mexico are five points clear of Costa Rica on fifth place. Panama, coached by the Spanish-Dane Thomas Christiansen, are looking for their second World Cup in a row, and have already played some epic matches to defeat the USA, and coming from behind to defeat both Honduras and El Salvador. 

My prediction is that the CONCACAF will end as its stands, with Mexico, USA and Canada qualifying, and Panama going to the play-offs. 

 In the meantime, I should say something about El Salvador, because it is the country in which I am currently residing. El Salvador´s manager Hugo Perez is being widely criticised for the lack of results and from some quarters also for his selection of some players who were not born and bred in the country, but are rather a product of the country´s huge diaspora, mainly in the USA. The team is relatively young, and I think Mr. Perez has a long-term plan, to build up a base of young foreign-based players who are now gaining experience and could compete for the 2026 World Cup. Right now, the team is clearly not competitive at the highest levels; even when they went ahead early against Panama they lacked a high pressure and controlling the match against a much more experiences and tactically savvy Panamanian side. The problem appears a lack of patience with the lack of quick results and what I consider a strange lack of support when things are not going well: last week´s home match against Jamaica was not sold out in San Salvador even though it was a crucial match for a team that could still qualify for the World Cup. 

These are the matches where the stadium should be sold out. Instead, with lacklustre support, El Salvador and Jamaica tied 1-1, and with the defeat to Panama, El Salvador are likely out of the contest. Good luck, and hope they can get more support next time.

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