June 14 – The knockout play off series to decide the final three slots in the eight team Concacaf final round of 2022 World Cup qualifying began at the weekend with opening advantages being gained by Canada, Panama and El Salvador.
With three Caribbean nations in the second round of qualifying play-offs, it is an opportunity for the region to go into the final rounds of 2022 qualifying with four out of eight teams competing for the three automatic Concacaf places in Qatar, and one inter-confederation play-off.
The match-ups are tight with Haiti and Canada reprising their Gold Cup 2019 quarter final confrontation that saw the Haitians come from behind to overcome the Canadians.
They will have to do the same this week having lost their home leg 1-0. A first half goal from Cyle Larin was enough for Canada to take the advantage at the Stade Sylvio Cator in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Larin broke the deadlock on 15 minutes, meeting a Jonathan Osorio cross from the right flank to sweep the ball into the net. He almost doubled the score minutes later when he found himself in front of goal but was denied by Haiti goalkeeper Johny Placide.
Placide kept Canada’s star forward Jonathon Davies off the score sheet in the second half as Haiti began to mount more pressure. Canada keeper Milan Borjan was equal to whatever the Haitians threw at him, including on an overhead kick from Kevin Lafrance that Borjan had to touch over the crossbar. The Haitian team has built its never-say-die reputation on gritty, uncompromising performances and individual self sacrifices. Canada expect a fearsome encounter at home.
Panama take a slender goal advantage to Curacao for their second-leg. Panama looked to be in control with two second half goals from Alberto Quintero and Cecilio Waterman. But Curacao are a growing force in Caribbean football and in the 86thminute they confirmed that reputation with Rangelo Janga reacting to a shot rebound to bring the deficit back to one and score a crucial away goal.
In the other play-off El Salvador took a big step towards the last eight with a 4-0 winover Saint Kitts and Nevis – the surprise qualifiers from the group stages – at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts.
David Rugamas scored in the third minute and again in the 27thwith El Salvador also adding goals through Joshua Perez and a Darwin Ceren penalty.
The three play-off winners will join the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica in the final eight-team group qualifying that beings in the Autumn.
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