Guatemala severely dented Canada’s World Cup aspirations with a comfortable 2-0 victory in their second round World Cup qualifier in Burnaby last night.
A double strike by Los Angeles Galaxy’s Carlos Ruiz heaped misery on the Canadians.
The match was first of six for both teams in Group B with the top two qualifying for the final six-team round. And on this showing, it seems that Canada have little hope.
Their opponents opened the scoring after seven minutes when Ruiz tapped home from close range. He added the second ten minutes after the break by lobbing Canadian goalkeeper Pat Onstad.
Canada were without Fulham’s Tomasz Radzinski and rarely threatened the visitors goalmouth. They must now avoid another defeat to stand any chance of qualifying.
In the other Group B match, Honduras made a spectacular comeback to upset Costa Rica 5-2 away from home.
Andy Herron had given Costa Rica the lead on 21 minutes, but the advantage was short-lived when David Suazo equalised a minute later. Julio de Leon then fired Honduras in front on 35 minutes before Herron levelled matters with his second a minute later.
In the second half, Honduras began to dominate possession and deservedly restored their lead on 67 minutes when Amado Guevera scored from the penalty spot.
Costa Rica’s hopes of a revival were dashed when two goals in five minutes from Ivan Guerrero and Saul Martinez wrapped up the crucial win for the visitors.
Floodlight failure threatened postponement of the Group A match between El Salvador and Panama in San Salvador, which the hosts eventually won 2-1. The match was delayed for 50 minutes, but out of the darkness strode El Salvador who took the lead on six minutes after the lights came on. Victor Velasquez headed home the goal.
Veteran striker Julio Dely Valdes equalised for Panama on 35 minutes and the match seemed to turn in favour for visitors when El Salvador’s Jose Martinez was sent off three minutes before the break for a second bookable offence.
But the ten-man home side grabbed the winner on half time when Jorge Rodriguez converted a penalty.
In the other Group A match, Brian Ching’s late goal rescued a point for USA against Jamaica in Kingston.
The Reggae Boyz were leading after 48 minutes thanks to Ian Goodison’s goal. And it seemed that they would hold on before Ching popped up in the last minute with a vital equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw.
In the only Group C match, two late goals from Errol McFarlane eased Trinadad and Tobago into a 2-0 win over St Vincent and the Grenadines.
McFarlane opened his account 11 from time when he stabbed home from close range. He made sure of the points with his second on 87 minutes.
Three countries from the CONCACAF region, which includes nations from North and Central America as well as the Caribbean, will advance to the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.
In European Group 1, Romania opened their qualification campaign with a 2-1 win over Finland in Bucharest.
Chelsea’s Adrian Mutu grabbed the opening goal five minutes after the break and Florentine Petre doubled the home side’s advantage with 89 minutes gone.
Petre’s goal proved to be vital as Finland were awarded an injury time penalty that Aleksei Jeremenko Jr smashed home, setting up a nervous last few minutes for Romania.
But the hosts managed to hold on in an ill-tempered affair. Both teams were reduced to ten men when Barcaunin was sent off for Romania after 77 minutes and Vayrynen for Finland six minutes later.
In the other game from the group, Macedonia proved too strong for Armenia by registering a 3-0 win in front of their own fans.
Goran Pandev, West Bromwich Albion’s Artim Sakiri and Velice Sumulikoski were all on the score sheet for the hosts as they set the pace in the Group 1.
The visitors never looked like scoring and were reduced to ten men after Marotyn Vardanyan was given a red card for a second bookable offence.
In European Group 3, Slovakia began their World Cup qualifiers with a hard-fought 3-1 home victory over Luxembourg.
The visitors threatened an upset when Jeff Strasser was on target after only two minutes. Slovakia pressed forward but were finding the visitors defence well organised and tough to crack. But they did so on 25 minutes when Robert Vittek eased the nerves with an equaliser.
Blackburn defender Vratislav Gresko put Slovakia in the lead on 48 minutes, before Igor Demo made sure of three points with the third in injury time.
In the other Group 3 match, Estonia managed to beat Liechtenstein 2-1 away from home. Kristen Viikmae and Joel Lindpere were on target for Estonia on 31 and 80 minutes respectively.
Liechtenstein, who managed an equaliser on 48 minutes thanks to Fabio D’Elia, had Christof Ritter and Andreas Gerster sent off.