THREE Stoke City players took huge steps towards reaching the showpiece 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil on Tuesday evening . . . as their countries came out victorious in the latest round of international qualifiers.
American pair Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu both featured in their country's crucial CONCACAF clash against Jamaica in Columbus, Ohio, whilst Wilson Palacios starred for Honduras in their 1-0 victory over Cuba.
The States were in desperate need of three points to keep themselves in pole position to progress through to the final round of qualifying, having lost 2-1 against the Reggae Boys in the Caribbean on Friday evening.
It looked like it wasn’t to be there night though as the woodwork came to the Jamaican’s rescue on three separate occasions during a dominant first 45 minutes, however, they were finally rewarded shortly after the break when Herculez Gomez fired home a 30-yard free-kick.
The scoreline should have been extended with both Tottenham’s summer signing Clint Dempsey and Danny Williams spurning glorious opportunities late on.
The result leaves Jurgen Klinsmann’s side perched on top of Group A, ahead of Guatemala, in second, and Jamaica, in third, with Antigua and Barbuda already eliminated having picked up just a single point from their four encounters thus far.
The top three teams are all level on seven points, but the States are now favourites to finish on top, with clashes against Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda to come in the next two months.
Meanwhile, Honduras elevated themselves back in to the qualification spots in Group C after completing a vital double against Cuba, in San Pedro, with Palacios putting in a man-of-the-match performance.
A 3-0 victory in Havana on Friday was followed up by a narrow 1-0 win on home soil on Tuesday night to close the gap on Panama to just two points, ahead of their final two games against Canada and the group leaders in October.
Elsewhere, Charlie Adam came on as a second half substitute for Scotland as their disappointing start to World Cup Qualification continued with a 1-1 home draw with Macedonia, but it was a better story for Asmir Begovic, as Bosnia followed up their opening day 8-1 win against Liechtenstein with a 4-1 hammering of Latvia.
With Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters both returning to the Potters following Republic of Ireland’s dramatic 2-1 victory against Kazakhstan at the weekend, it was left to Marc Wilson to fly the City flag in the Irish squad as he featured in their 4-1 friendly win against Oman.
The defender picked up his second international cap under Giovanni Trapattoni - playing 45 of the encounter at Fulham’s Craven Cottage.