United States, Mexico book spots at World Cup finals

 United States, Mexico book spots at World Cup finals

THE United States and Mexico both booked tickets to this year’s World Cup in Qatar in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying on Wednesday.

The United States, who missed out on the 2018 tournament, lost 2-0 to Costa Rica but still progressed along with the Mexicans, who beat El Salvador 2-0.

On the final matchday of CONCACAF qualifying, the United States knew that a win, draw or loss by less than six goals would ensure a return to the World Cup finals.

“It’s amazing what this group of guys have been able to do over these last seven months,” head coach Gregg Berhalter told CBS Sports. “I’ve really seen the team grow and this is a great accomplishment. We are looking forward to the World Cup.”

Berhalter was part of the US team that reached the quarter-finals at the 2002 World Cup, where they lost to Germany. He was also part of their 2006 World Cup squad but did not play any games as they were knocked out in the group stage.

“I don’t think that has sunk in yet,” he said, when asked about leading the team to the World Cup as a coach.

“Just being at a World Cup as a player is one of the most special things you can do… now to be doing it as a coach with this group of players is something special.”

Costa Rica went ahead in the 51st minute from a Juan Pablo Vargas header before Anthony Contreras doubled the lead from close range shortly after.

The United States, whose squad includes only four players from the side which failed to reach Russia in 2018, held steady the rest of the way to ensure qualification.

Costa Rica finished fourth in the standings and will face New Zealand in an intercontinental qualifier in Qatar in June for another spot at the finals.

Mexico defeated El Salvador after Uriel Antuna put them ahead from the left side of the six-yard box in the 17th minute before Raul Jimenez converted a penalty just before half time.

Canada, who already secured qualification on Sunday, lost 1-0 at Panama but still finished top of the group.

The Canadians were unable to wrap up an impressive qualifying campaign on a winning note in Panama, who were eliminated from contention by the United States on Sunday.

Gabriel Torres scored the game’s only goal for Panama early in the second half, firing home from inside the box.

Canada, who made seven changes to the lineup from Sunday’s game, thought they had equalized through Cyle Larin’s header but it was ruled offside after a video review.

“For these boys, this has been one hell of a journey,” said Canada head coach John Herdman.

“We’re here, top of the group… And we’re off to Qatar, that’s all we dreamed of, as the champions of CONCACAF.”

The United States, Mexico and Canada will jointly host the 2026 World Cup. — Reuters