Jamaica will not quite be quaking in their boots about the FIFA World Cup qualifiers after their creditable draw with European heavyweights Serbia.
But the Reggae Boyz now know who they could face when the final qualifiers kick off in September, with three teams from the round-robin format of eight nations guaranteed a place at Qatar 2022.
Four teams who previously reached the FIFA World Cup finals have progressed to the CONCACAF 2nd Round qualifiers for a shot at returning to the showpiece tournament next year in the Far East.
Canada, El Salvador, Haiti and Panama each headed their respective five-team group this week and enter the knock-out stages next week.
Ever-improving sides Curaçao and St. Kitts & Nevis’ Sugar Boyz make up the six sides, with some do-or-die matches having ended the dreams of other nations on the final matchday.
Canada tackled Suriname in their final group game, with the victor guaranteed to top the group. Canada had few problems and scored for fun to register an emphatic 4-0 home success to finish with an astonishing 27 goals from their campaign. However, minnows Aruba, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands were in the group too.
Goal-hungry Canada will be quietly confident of making it to the World Cup finals for only the second time, having played at Mexico 1986.
El Salvador won the honours in another top-of-the-table clash, securing the next stage with a comfortable home 3-0 victory over Antigua & Barbuda. They were leapfrogged to second spot by Montserrat, who edged past hosts Grenada 2-1. El Salvador have twice reached the World Cup finals, in 1970 and 1982 respectively.
Haiti went a step closer to returning to the World Cup finals after Derrick Etienne’s lone strike held off a resilient Nicaragua team, who required victory in Port Au Prince to progress. Haiti are dreaming of making it the illustrious tournament for the first time since 1974.
Panama, who qualified for the last World Cup finals in Russia, scored a 3-0 home victory over Dominican Republic, progressing at the expense of their opponents courtesy of Jonathan David’s second-half hat-trick.
Curaçao and Guatemala played out a tense scoreless draw, the Dutch Antilles team only topping the group by having scored more goals.
St. Kitts & Nevis, who had sealed their place in the next qualifying round with a match to spare, fell 2-0 to a more upbeat Trinidad & Tobago. The side who reached the 2006 Germany World Cup finals suffered an unusually early exit following their shock scoreless draw against the Bahamas in Nassau. Bahamas, without a World Cup victory for a decade, picked up their first point of their campaign.
But it is the Sugar Boyz who are the surprise team out of the six raring to go, while Curaçao have disappointed so far.
1st Round World Cup Qualifying (June 8)
Group A winners | El Salvador
El Salvador 3 Antigua & Barbuda 0
Grenada 1 Montserrat 2
Did not play | US Virgin Islands
Group B winners | Canada
Bermuda 1 Cayman Islands 1
Canada 4 Suriname 0
Did not play | Aruba
Group C winners | Curaçao
Curaçao 0 Guatemala 0
St. Vincent & the Grenadines 0 Cuba 1
Did not play | British Virgin Islands
Group D winners | Panama
Barbados 1 Dominica 1
Panama 3 Dominican Republic 0
Did not play | Anguilla
Group E winners | Haiti
Haiti 1 Nicaragua 0
Did not play | Belize, Turks & Caicos and St. Lucia
Group F winners | St. Kitts & Nevis
Guyana 0 Puerto Rico 2
Trinidad & Tobago 2 St. Kitts & Nevis 0
Did not play | Bahamas
2nd Round World Cup Qualifying
Haiti v Canada
St. Kitts & Nevis v El Salvador
Panama v Curaçao
Canada v Haiti
Curaçao v Panama
El Salvador v St. Kitts & Nevis
3rd Round World Cup Qualifying (September 2021)
Canada or Haiti
Curaçao or Panama
El Salvador or St. Kitts & Nevis
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