The first two games of the Hexagonal for the 2018 World Cup in Russia have arrived to an end. Here are the winners and losers from the first two matchdays.
Costa Rica- Without a doubt the biggest winner of the Hex so far has been Costa Rica. Leading the Hex with two convincing victories, Costa Rica was able to get an away win and a huge victory against their closest rival in talent, the United States. The goal differential will also be big for them in the future. They will now face their toughest game on the road against Mexico but will going with a nice cushion.
Mexico- After a terrible Hexagonal campaign in 2013, Mexico starts with four points after having the most difficult start of all the Hex teams. The historic win in Columbus against their biggest rival and a draw against the most improved team of the region, Panama, places Mexico second on the table and with two less away games. They will now face a key game at home against Costa Rica and a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, but for now, they have already matched every Hex since 1998 with one away victory (for the exception of 2006 that had two) and exorcised their biggest demons in the process.
Panama- Tied in points with Mexico and playing good football, Panama obtained key results in their quest to qualify for their first ever World Cup. A victory against rival Honduras and a draw against the team that many think is the best of the qualifiers, Mexico, are great results for a country that is considered the most improved in the region. Although it's been positive for now, they will face two key matches away to Trinidad and Tobago and at home to the United States. They can, however, end the year in very high spirits.
Colombia- While it's still early, three of the four teams on top of the Hex have Colombian coaches. Colombia has quietly become the second leading exporter of national team coaches in the Americas after Argentina and they had key results this past week, Juan Carlos Osorio winning in Columbus and Bolillo Gomez in Honduras. The irony, of course, is Colombia’s head coach is Jose Luis Pekerman of Argentina.
United States- The biggest loser has to be last-placed United States. Not only did they receive their first home defeat since 2001 but it came against their biggest rival in Mexico. The defeat ended their streak in Columbus, which had been vital to the national team and US soccer.
The mental hit was evident when they went to Costa Rica and continued their negative streak with a terrible 4-0 defeat. The severity of the loss, the lack of effort, and the reports of conflicts with coach Jurgen Klinnsmann have made a situation that wasn't so surprising, losing to the two best teams in the region, to be catastrophic. The US now has key games against Honduras and Panama that under normal situations would be expected victories but now are under a dark cloud of uncertainty.
Columbus- Mexico's victory in Columbus ended the psychological hold that this Ohio city had on the Mexican team. With the "Dos a zero" streak over, there might be the possibility of moving the game to a bigger venue with US support like Seattle or Portland. A bigger stadium that can actually pull home field support might be a better option for the US in future competitions, although most likely things will not change until after the qualifiers to Qatar 2022.
Trinidad and Tobago- While Trinidad and Tobago had a tough start, the two defeats have painted them as the weakest team in the competition, even if they aren't currently the lowest-placed team in the Hex. A home defeat to Costa Rica might be normal, but giving life to Honduras was a missed opportunity that might have exposed them. They will now face key games at home against Panama and Mexico, leaving them as the team that has most on the line in March than any other.
CONCACAF refs- Once again CONCACAF refs showed that it will be more of the same in terms of their low level. Bad tackling abounded in Panama City and a questionable call might have costed Panama a goal in Honduras.