The CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers are heading down to the final three games for the 7-day FIFA window from March 24th to March 30th. There were debates as to which team would finish in the top three automatic spots to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar; however, it is at the stage where teams may welcome the fourth spot and have to play a South American team in a playoff series to get to Qatar. The drama finish is set for March Madness, where there could be as many as three teams in a dogfight for the fourth spot in their last match.
At Stars Soccer Review (SSR) Magazine, we have been on the money for our CONCACAF World Cup projections; however, this cycle of the region men’s world cup qualifying tournament has been very different. Our projections were in the six-nation (Hexagonal) tournament called the “Hex,” but this time around, it’s an 8-team (Octagonal) home and away tournament of 14 games with teams having to play three games in a 7-day window.
FIFA and their affiliates have done the best of a backlogged schedule of games due to Covid-19, and things have been changing so rapidly that I certainly would be behind time if I called it the Corona or Delta virus. However, it is no surprise that Covid-19 has brought many changes in our lives. The current CONCACAF Octagonal standings may seem to surprise those who have not been paying attention and keeping abreast with developments and the talent pools.
Many people are surprised that Canada is at the top of the Octagonal standings, but to them, I say that the margin of separation from the rest cannot be a fluke. However, I am sounding a Canada Alert that Costa Rica is on a 3-game unbeaten streak which includes Panama, Mexico, and Jamaica, respectively, after experiencing a home-field atmosphere. It is possible that Canada –Costa Rica game can go either way. Costa Rica needs the win and three points more than Canada. However, Canada has not lost in the tournament; hence I see this game as a tossup.
Canada has no problem in qualifying for Qatar; however, it is on a very tricky schedule to finish atop the final standings; taking “one game at a time” will be the cliché the coaches of the top 6 teams will utter when asked about their team’s chances of qualification but the scenario will change from March 24th, 2022 onwards..
Mathematically, six teams can still qualify, but the schedule is saying something completely different. In reality, it is 5 teams, which can be reduced quickly depending on the outcome of some of the games. If Canada, Mexico, and the USA win two of their next three matches, it will be Canada, Mexico, and the USA clinching the three automatic spots to Qatar.
There are no mathematical options for the bottom teams, although things can change quickly for those in the mix after the first match on March 24th if the game between Mexico and USA finishes deadlock.
Canada can also qualify with a Panama loss or draw in their game against Honduras.
The USA can qualify with a win against Mexico and a Panama loss against Honduras.
Mexico can qualify with a win over the USA and a Panama loss to Honduras
Panama has to win the last 3 games to qualify.
Costa Rica has to win their three remaining games with a lot of help
El Salvador has to win their three games and get a lot of help and prayers
Jamaica mathematically eliminated
Honduras mathematically eliminated