Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Games to Watch: U.S. national team World Cup qualifying commands the spotlight

The United States' road to Brazil resumes Friday night with a must-win home game against Costa Rica.

Games to Watch: U.S. national team World Cup qualifying commands the spotlight

Wales at Scotland 

4:00 p.m. Friday (ESPN3.com) 

Club soccer around the world stops for a few days as attention turns to national teams in World Cup qualifying games. This contest features two teams that share a country - yes, really. When it comes to soccer, England and Britain aren’t the same thing. The United Kingdom, as it’s officially called, has four separate teams within it: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Never mind that these two teams are at the bottom of their qualifying group. It’s a rivalry worth watching, with players worth watching. Wales is led by Tottenham Hotspur star Gareth Bale, one of Europe’s biggest stars. Scotland’s squad features Vancouver Whitecaps forward Kenny Miller, who has regained his form after a difficult start to life in MLS.

Bolivia at Colombia

4:00 p.m. Friday (beIN Sport)

South America's World Cup qualifying process is just past its midway point. Colombia sits in third place, and the Cafeteros have their sights set on a first World Cup qualifying appearance since 1998.

Former Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón and defender Carlos Valdés will play host to a Bolivian squad composed mainly of players from the country's domestic league. 

Mexico at Honduras

4:00 p.m. Friday (Telemundo)

After beating the United States at home, Honduras will aim to make it two wins in two World Cup qualifying games against Mexico. The afternoon kickoff will help boost the Catrachos' home field advantage in San Pedro Sula's raucous Estadio Olimpico.

Honduras will be led by Wigan ballhawk Roger Espinoza, Houston Dynamo winger Óscar Boniek García and New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengtson. Mexico will look to Manchester United star Javier Hernández, Valencia's Andrés Guardado and Mallorca's Giovani Dos Santos. 

Costa Rica at United States

10:00 p.m. Friday (ESPN/Uni Más)

Even though it's just the second game of the final round of World Cup qualifying, it's a must-win for the United States at Dick's Sporting Goods Park outside Denver. Some of the U.S.' biggest stars are out injured, including goalkeeper Tim Howard and defender Fabian Johnson.

Omar Gonzalez leads a young back line, and Michael Bradley will marshal the action from midfield. Above all, captain Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore must lead the United States attack and deliver goals.

For Costa Rica, forward Álvaro Saborío - who plays for Real Salt Lake in Major League Soccer - will lead the attack, alongside Fulham dynamo Bryan Ruiz and Arsenal prospect Joel Campbell. 

Columbus Crew at D.C. United

3:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Network)

There is one significant soccer league that isn't taking this weekend off. Major League Soccer has a full slate of action this weekend. The Union are the only team with a bye from league play.

Both Columbus and D.C. are aiming to land playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Although they're each losing players to World Cup qualifying, Crew star Federico Higuaín and D.C. star Dwayne De Rosario will be on the field.

Spain at France

3:55 p.m. Eastern (ESPN2/Uni Más)

Spain has won the last three major tournaments it has played in - the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup. But La Roja is tied in the standings with France, which got a 1-1 draw in Madrid last December. Now the two teams meet at the Stade de France, and only one can get the group's automatic World Cup spot.

Spain's squad has all the big names you'd expect, including Barcelona midfielders Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta. France's squad includes two players from Barça's biggest rival, Real Madrid: defender Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema.

United States at Mexico

10:30 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN, Univision)

The biggest rivalry game in North American soccer is played out on the continent's biggest stage - the infamous Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Expect the sellout crowd of nearly 120,000 to be on edge, as Mexico only managed a scoreless draw at home against Jamaica last month.

The United States won in Mexico City for the first time ever last August, but that was just a friendly. A World Cup qualifier will be a much bigger challenge - especially if El Tri falters at Honduras.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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