Mexico advance, Canada beaten in Panama

MIAMI Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:32am EDT

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MIAMI (Reuters) - Mexico booked their place in CONCACAF's final phase of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica on Tuesday but the battle for the other five slots remains wide open.

A goal on the hour from forward Javier Hernandez was enough to secure a win at the Azteca Stadium for Mexico, who have won all four of their games and lead Group B with 12 points.

'Chicharito' headed home a deep cross from Jorge Torres Nilo to ensure Mexico maintained their 100 percent record and gave the Manchester United striker his 26th goal in 41 national team appearances.

While Mexico are through with two games remaining in the third qualifying phase, El Salvador, who won 3-2 in Guyana, are on five points with Costa Rica on four and Guyana out of the running on one.

Panama lead Group C on nine points after a 2-0 victory over Canada with goals from Rolando Blackburn and Blas Perez.

The game was stopped after six minutes when stadium lighting went out, and when action resumed after a 15 minute stoppage Blackburn headed Panama in front in the 23rd minute and Perez doubled the lead 12 minutes into the second half.

Honduras and Canada trail Panama by two points, while Cuba are eliminated after failing to get a point, or score a goal, in their four games so far.

Honduras, who qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, have put themselves firmly back in the frame after picking up six points from their two September games against Cuba.

In-form Jerry Bengtson headed the only goal in the 32nd minute from close range after some lovely work from Roger Espinoza.

It is tight at the top of Group A with Guatemala, the United States and Jamaica all on seven points, with Antigua and Barbuda struggling with just a point.

The United States recovered from their 2-1 defeat to Jamaica in Kingston on Friday with a 1-0 win over the same opponents in Columbus, Ohio, thanks to a 55th minute free-kick from Herculez Gomez.

However, Juergen Klinsmann's team may have to win their final game at home to Guatemala after the Central Americans maintained their challenge with a 1-0 win in Antigua, Carlos Ruiz scoring in the 25th minute at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

The top three teams from the final round of qualifying, a round-robin involving the six sides that advance from the third stage, will automatically qualify for the World Cup in Brazil.

The fourth-placed team will take part in a play-off against the top team in the Oceania region.

(Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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