- Final round of Concacaf qualifying for Qatar 2022 has arrived
- Eight teams will compete in home-and-away fixtures
- Three direct qualification slots for the World Cup up for grabs
Qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ in the North, Central America and Caribbean region (Concacaf) has reached a new era. For years fans have been used to the “Hexagonal” round – or famously known as the “Hex” – but that chapter has closed with the page turned to the expanded “Octagonal” format.
Over the next few months until the end of March 2022, eight nations will play 14 matches (seven home and seven away) for three direct qualification tickets to the biggest international tournament on the planet for the world’s most popular sport. The fourth-place finisher will compete in an intercontinental play-off against an opponent from either the AFC (Asia), CONMEBOL (South America) or OFC (Oceania), scheduled for June 2022.
FIFA.com previews the first set of matches in September in the region as the first-ever “Octagonal” sets up a bevy of mouthwatering fixtures.
Schedule: First three matchdays
Mexico under pressure
Mexico and the World Cup are practically synonymous. El Tri have qualified for seven consecutive finals and 16 of the 21 in total. However, 2021 has not gone to plan so far for coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino and Co. Two defeats by regional rivals USA in two finals – an unprecedented occurrence – means Mexico have plenty they want to put right. A confident opening victory over Jamaica in front of their home fans at the famous Azteca will go some way to improving the team’s overall mental state. With several players coming off a bronze-medal finish at Tokyo 2020, they will bring a necessary positivity to the group as well.
USA hungry to return to the big stage
Ever since 10 October 2017 when the US failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ they have been preparing to rectify their mistakes and have hit the reset button. Coming off winning the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup this year, Gregg Berhalter’s young and predominantly European-based team – the average age of the squad is just over 24 years old with 16 players plying their trade in Europe – begin the final round on the road to Qatar 2022 full of confidence with considerable momentum.
“We have spent the last two years building the foundation and culture of the team for this moment,” said Berhalter. “World Cup qualifying is a gruelling challenge that demands a complete group effort in order to be successful. We are confident in our ability to respond to the challenges that are presented along the way.”