Mexico and Trinidad sit on the opposite end of the Hexagonal table, and will close out the Hexagonal against one another on Wednesday.
Who: Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago
What: World Cup qualifying, final round
Where: Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
When: Wednesday, Oct. 14, 8 p.m. ET
Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago will close out the Hexagonal round of qualifying with different objectives. Mexico can relax and not feel pressure to pull out a road win in order to get to the World Cup. Mexico reached South Africa after beating El Salvador 4-1 on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Trinidad & Tobago hope to save some face and put on good show for the locals after a 4-0 shellacking in Costa Rica on Saturday.
Time For Some R & R
When planning a possible way to South Africa several months ago - when Mexico were not among the top three - the finale against Trinidad looked like a possible ace-in-the-hole. Playing against a Trinidad team that looked in even further peril than El Tri might be a blessing Mexico could have needed in order to reach the World Cup finals.
Instead, Mexico head to Port-of-Spain with a ticket to the World Cup in their pocket. A win in the sweltering and humid Hasely Crawford won't be necessary to help Mexico through after all. Mexico clinched a spot in the World Cup on Saturday, beating El Salvador 4-1 in Mexico City. Mexico finished with a spotless 5-0 home record in qualifying, which included a 2-1 win over Trinidad on June 10.
Still, Mexico have some things to improve on. Mexico are 1-3 on the road in the Hexagonal, having dropped games at the United States, Honduras and El Salvador. A win against Trinidad would not even their road mark but would make it look more respectable and would give Mexico a remarkable sixth consecutive victory in the final round of qualifying.
Mexico players have made it a goal to help El Tri finish atop the Hexagonal table. Mexico, though, need help for that to happen. El Tri must beat Trinidad and hope Costa Rica beats or ties the United States. The U.S. sit in first place with 19 points while Mexico have 18. Costa Rica, in third place with 15, will clinch a spot in South Africa with a win at the Americans, so the Ticos have everything to play for.
Ultimately, though, it might just be an insignificant historical footnote. Mexico last finished in first place in the Hexagonal in 1997, when El Tri finished with a 4-0-6 record, one point ahead of the U.S. and four ahead of Jamaica. Mexico finished in second place in 2001 and was tied with the U.S. in 2005 but finished second on tiebreakers. Still, Mexico earned a seed in the 2006 World Cup.
Rematch Of Different Sorts
Mexico lost in this same scenario four years ago. When closing out the 2005 Hexagonal having already booked passage to Germany, Mexico fell to Trinidad & Tobago. However, that game was much different, particularly for the Trinis. With their victory over Mexico, Trinidad finished in fourth place of the Hexagonal table, edging Guatemala for a World Cup playoff series against Bahrain. Trinidad eventually reached their first-ever World Cup finals.
This match could take on the feel of a friendly. While yellow cards won't carry over into the World Cup, a red card for a Tri player on Wednesday would mean the recipient would not be able to play in the first game of next summer's tournament.
Mexico manager Javier Aguirre, who has kept fans guessing with surprising call-ups since his return in April, may field a different-look squad as key players such as Guillermo Ochoa and Cuauhtemoc Blanco might start the game on the bench.
Projected Starting Lineups
Goal.com Prediction: Mexico, 1-0.