Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

All Whites likely to face Mexico or Panama

The All Whites appear destined for a playoff against the winner of a World Cup qualifier between Mexico and Panama on October 11. Photo / Getty Images.
The All Whites appear destined for a playoff against the winner of a World Cup qualifier between Mexico and Panama on October 11. Photo / Getty Images.

The All Whites appear destined for a playoff against the winner of a World Cup qualifier between Mexico and Panama on October 11 that will likely determine who finishes fourth in the North and Central America group.

In the latest round of CONCACAF qualifiers today, Mexico were beaten 2-0 by the United States in Columbus, while Panama drew 2-2 with Honduras in Tegucigalpa and in the group's other match, Costa Rica drew 1-1 with Jamaica in Kingston.

The wash up is, USA sit atop the group on 16 points and have earned qualification for Brazil next year, alongside the second-placed Costa Rica (15), while Honduras (11) are on track to qualify as the final top-three finisher.

Panama and Mexico both have eight points but Panama edge the Mexicans on goals scored, while Jamaica are seemingly out of the race on four points.

It means everything will go on the line when Mexico host Panama at the 105,000-seat Azteca in Mexico City next month.

After Mexico and Panama do battle there will be one further round of CONCACAF matches four days later where Panama will host the USA and Mexico have to travel to Costa Rica.

There is little certainty surrounding those matches, given USA and Costa Rica have their qualification secured and may not deploy full-strength sides given nothing will be on the line for them.

The fourth-place finisher will then meet the All Whites in a home-and-away intercontinental playoff in November with a spot in the World Cup on the line.

Mexico, the world No 20, have struggled in qualification but there's no doubt that Ricki Herbert's men would rather meet Panama (40), who have less pedigree and would feel more pressure in a playoff situation given they have never qualified for the World Cup finals.

Mexico have lost only two of their 78 World Cup qualifying games at the Azteca.

- APNZ

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