As local football becomes put on hold for the first international break of the year, many national teams will be looking to close their place at the Qatar World Cup over the next fortnight.
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Three games remain in the CONCACAF segment, and no team has yet inevitably reserved their place at this winter’s tournament. Canada unbowed in 11 games so far is best positioned to do so as things stand, boasting a four-point lead over USA and Mexico, and more decisively an eight-point lead over fourth-placed Panama.
All three unsettled matches are due to take place during the present international break, and here Sports Mole looks at the state of play heading into the home orthodox before the FIFA World Cup.
Who plays who on March 24?
The first plump of qualifying games during the current international break will take place on Thursday, March 24 a day that could prove conclusive for a few teams in the Qatar World Cup.
Here are the games planned for March 24:
Jamaica vs. El Salvador
Panama vs. Honduras
Mexico vs. the USA
Costa Rica vs. Canada
Canada is already definite a playoff spot at the very least, and it would take an enormous collapse for the unbeaten section leaders to miss out on a first FIFA World Cup appearance since 1986, and only their second ever. To know more about World Cup Tickets click here.
Three teams qualify automatically and Canada is eight points strong of fourth with three games lingering, meaning that a triumph away to fifth-placed Costa Rica would rubber-stamp their place in Qatar World Cup.
A draw could be sufficient if fourth-placed Panama globule points against Honduras, although given their massively superior goal difference a draw would all but serve even if Panama does succeed.
Defeat would see their wait for authorized validation extend for at least another week, but should Panama also lose then once again their goal difference will mean that they have all but practiced anyway.
Behind Canada, old competitors USA and Mexico assemble level on points in second and third heading into their enormous game against each other in Mexico City. Victory for the USA would lift them to 24 points, which would be adequate to book their place at the Qatar World Cup if Panama and Costa Rica also drop points.
Should either Panama, Costa Rica, or both pick up conquests themselves then USA’s wait for qualification would go on, although conquest on Thursday would leave them in a very robust position to finish the job later in the international break before the World Cup.
Mexico discovered themselves in the identical position as the USA, albeit just behind their opponents due to a faintly inferior goal difference. Should they win in Mexico City on Thursday then they would also qualify if Panama and Costa Rica globule points, although wins for either of the two teams directly behind them would see their wait extended.
Defeat for either Mexico or the USA would permit their qualification in much greater doubt, though, with a triumph for Panama elating them to within one point of the top three in that situation before FIFA World Cup.
Who else can still qualify?
Panama presently sits in the playoff advert but will look to take advantage of the USA and Mexico fronting each other on Thursday to close the breach on the top three.
The Panamanians take on the USA and Canada in their concluding two games, making Thursday’s home game against Honduras all the more significant. Defeat in that game could leave them five points floating of automatic qualification with just six points to play for, while it would also open the gate for Costa Rica to jump them into fourth.
Costa Rica is one point overdue Panama as things stand and know that success over Canada in San Jose would be a gigantic boost to their expectations of making the Qatar World Cup.
Should they mislay then it could be that the top two seats become out of reach for them, while any defeat fixed with a win for Panama would leave them with a mountain to scramble in the final two games to even claim a playoff spot.
El Salvador and the USA afford Costa Rica’s final two opponents, and any plunged points against Canada would likely leave them wanting maximum points from those two games before World Cup.
El Salvador has previously been lined out of automatic qualification, and even a playoff spot looks highly unlikely with a three-game residual before the Qatar World Cup.
Eight points presently separate them from Panama, meaning that anything other than a win against Jamaica on Thursday would see them reigned out of the running once and for all.
Indeed, anything other than victories in each of their remaining three games will see them miss out on qualification, as would other results going touching them before the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Who is already out of the running?
Jamaica has seven points from their 11 games so distant, picking up just one win and losing six times to fall an irrefutable 10 points behind fourth place with nine points to play for.
Honduras began their crusade with a reliable draw away to Canada, but that is just one of three points they have taken from their 11 winless games so far a reckoning which leaves them rooted to the bottom of the positions in the Qatar World Cup.
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