Second round: Four nations compete to get the last two spots to qualify for the Under-20 World Cup. CONCACAF will also get its new king by the end of Saturday.
By Jorge Belon, Managing Editor
The final three games of the Under-20 CONCACAF Championship will be held Saturday at the Montego Bay Sports Complex at Montego Bay, Jamaica. Four countries from CONCACAF will be heading to New Zealand for the World Cup; Panama and Mexico are already in since they won their group. Now the United States, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador will be battling for the final two spots.
First match: Guatemala vs. Honduras
A Central American match-up with bad blood, both nations from the senior level to youth national teams absolutely looks towards to beating each other.
Regardless of Honduras’ slight, five-win advantage in the eight matches played in the under-20 level, the Chapines will be looking to defeat their rivals. Playmaker Andy Ruiz has led the way being involved with four of their six goals, including scoring one of his own.
However, for Guatemala their strength has been their defense mores than their offense. In five matches they only gave up two goals, both from the two teams that finished higher than them in the group. The Chapines steady defense
it gives their wings a chance to counter and Ruiz to start an attack.
As for Honduras, although they did score 11 goals, they still managed to allow nine as well, with their main weakness being speed coming from the wings and counters. In fact, against Haiti they blew their two-goal lead and barely won 3-2 because of the Haitian quick-step.
The Catrachos offense might be lethal with Bryan Rochaz leading with four goals, but the pesky Guatemalan defense might prove to be too much for Honduras.
The Chapines dominant defense has already been on display after holding the American and Panamanian offenses to just one goal each; those same two teams have combined for 21 goals in the group stages.
Guatemala should be heading to their second World Cup.
Prediction: Guatemala 1-0 Honduras.
Second Match: United States vs. El Salvador
In this match the Americans are considered to be heavy favorites against the Salvadorians. However, the history books say these two countries are dead even.
In the seven matches they have played in the U-20 level dating back to 1964, both teams share an identical 3-3-1 record.
Salvador will be searching for their first victory against the Yanks since 1994, but it will not come easily since the Stars and Stripes have only given up two goals so far. The Americans stingy defense has done its job, but what might keep Le Selecta in the game is the inconsistent U.S. offense.
The United States have scored 12 goals, but eight of them came against a very bad Aruba team. For Salvador, their leading goal scorer José Villavicencio will need to find away to get behind the defense and make sure to test the U.S. goalie with every shot. Since the Americans squander at least four to five goal-scoring opportunities a game, it gives any team a chance to steal the victory.
However, La Selecta did give up eight goals in the group stages and the Americans will find away to get their fourth overall victory against the Central American nation and qualify to their 14th World Cup.
Prediction: United States 3-0 El Salvador
Final: Panama vs. Mexico.
Mexico steamrolled through the group stages with a positive 15-goal differential. There was never any doubt that El Tri was going to win the group and qualify to the World Cup for their 14th time.
As for Panama, they were favorites to get out of the group but not win it. The Yanks were favorites to win the group, but when they defeated the U.S. 1-0 they never lost control of the group. As a result, they qualified to their fifth World Cup.
They now however have the chance to win the Under-20 CONCACAF Championship for their first time; Los Canaleros best finish in the tournament was fourth place in 2011.
Both teams’ defenses stopped the opponent’s offense from creating too many dangerous chances. The Mexicans were scored on three times, and Panama has yet to give up a goal in five matches. However, what separates these two nations is their offense.
Panama was able to score nine goals, but the Mexican well oiled offensive machine scored 18 times. El Tri has a three headed monster leading their attack: Hirving Lozano, Alejandro Díaz and José Ramírez. The three of them have single handedly outscored Panama, combining for 12 goals.
Los Canaleros have yet to be scored on, but they have not faced an offense that moves the ball like this team. The Mexicans can keep possessions for long periods of time, making the other team chase nothing but shadows.
In result, Panama will have to win their first Under-20 CONCACAF Championship another time as Mexico will win it again.
Predictions: Panama 1-4 Mexico.