Trinidad kick US out of World Cup

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - Sport 4 -

PORT OF SPAIN – The United States will be ab­sent from the World Cup foot­ball fi­nals next year for the first time since 1986, af­ter a hu­mil­i­at­ing 2-1 de­feat at the hands of Trinidad & Tobago at Couva on Tues­day.

De­spite an in­con­sis­tent qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign, the Amer­i­cans en­tered the Ato Boldon Sta­dium need­ing only a win of any sort over the bot­tom team in the CON­CA­CAF fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing group to punch their ticket to Rus­sia.

But two first-half goals – an Omar Gon­za­lez own goal in the 17th minute and an Alvin Jones ef­fort 20 min­utes later – proved too much for the Amer­i­cans to over­come de­spite Chris­tian Pulisic’s strike af­ter the break.

In­stead, Panama qual­i­fied for the World Cup fi­nals for the first time with their 2-1 vic­tory over Costa Rica, while Hon­duras beat Mex­ico 3-2 to pip the United States to a play­off place against Aus­tralia.

It was a stun­ning turn of events for the US, who got off to an omi­nous start against the Soca War­riors when de­fender Gon­za­lez tried to clear the ball only for it to loop up and over goal­keeper Tim Howard and into the net.

Jones dou­bled the lead when he un­leashed a piledriver of a shot from well out­side the penalty area that flew past Howard and into the net just in­side the far post.

The US re­sponded in the sec­ond half when Pulisic also scored from out­side the box in the 47th minute to give the vis­i­tors hope that they might at least res­cue a draw that would have se­cured them the play­off spot.

The des­per­ate ef­fort to level up the match fell short, though, de­spite the best ef­forts of 34-year-old Clint Dempsey who nearly scored twice in the fi­nal 20 min­utes.

Benny Feil­haber also had a header ric­o­chet off the post in the 88th minute but the hosts held firm to con­demn the Amer­i­cans to a fourth de­feat in 10 matches in the fi­nal round of qual­i­fy­ing.

The im­pact of the US’S ab­sence will be felt at broad­cast­ers Fox, who take over cov­er­age of the World Cup from ESPN start­ing with the 2018 tour­na­ment and a host of spon­sors, such as Nike.

Mean­while, Uruguay, Ar­gentina and Colom­bia qual­i­fied af­ter a dra­matic last round of South Amer­i­can fix­tures that also saw Peru clinch a play­off spot against New Zealand and Chile miss out com­pletely.

Brazil were for­tu­nate enough to es­cape most of the drama, hav­ing al­ready qual­i­fied as group win­ners, but they still had a say in who would join them in Rus­sia next year by thrash­ing Chile 3-0.

Ar­gentina, fi­nal­ists three years ago but out­side the four qual­i­fy­ing spots go­ing into their match in Ecuador, fell be­hind in the first minute but a Lionel Messi hat-trick guar­an­teed his side one of the three au­to­matic berths still up for grabs.

Uruguay also went be­hind at home to Bo­livia, to an own goal from Gas­ton Silva af­ter 24 min­utes, but they forged ahead with two goals in each half to fin­ish sec­ond in the 10-team group be­hind five-time World Cup win­ners Brazil.

Martin Cac­eres, Edin­son Ca­vani and two Luis Suarez strikes gave the home side a com­mand­ing lead be­fore Diego Godin’s own goal com­pleted the scor­ing in a 4-2 win for the hosts.

A sec­ond-half goal from Paolo Guer­rero kept Peru in with a chance of a first World Cup ap­pear­ance since 1982 when his bril­liant free kick in Lima can­celled out Colom­bia’s opener from James Ro­driguez.

Paraguay also missed out af­ter they lost 1-0 at home to bot­tom side Venezuela. (Reuters)

PROMIS­ING young fast bowler Che­mar Holder left Bar­ba­dos yes­ter­day even­ing for a 10-week stint at the Dar­ren Lehmann Acad­emy in Ade­laide, South Aus­tralia.

The 19-year-old Holder was joined on the trip to Aus­tralia by chair­man of the Bar­ba­dos Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion’s Ever­ton Weekes Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence, Roland Butcher, a for­mer Eng­land Test and One­Day player.

Since spear­head­ing the Windies’ Un­der-19 team pace at­tack with Alzarri Joseph in the fi­nal of the 2016 ICC Youth tour­na­ment against In­dia in Bangladesh, Holder’s de­vel­op­ment has con­tin­ued steadily.

The six-footer was the re­cip­i­ent of the Pres­i­dent’s Award, dur­ing the last BCA Awards Cer­e­mony, and has per­formed con­sis­tently af­ter re­turn­ing from in­jury.

Holder, who is one of the Bar­ba­dos Pride’s 15 con­tracted play­ers for the 2017-18 Re­gional Pro­fes­sional Cricket League sea­son, has taken 21 wick­ets in six matches at an av­er­age of 16.57 for Sagi­cor Life UWI in this year’s BCA’S Elite Di­vi­sion.

His de­par­ture will de­lay his first-class de­but as he was widely ex­pected to gain se­lec­tion to play against Trinidad and Tobago Red Force on Oc­to­ber 26. (EZS)

JONES’ JOY: Trinidad and Tobago’s Alvin Jones cel­e­brat­ing his goal with team­mates. (Reuters pic­tures)

HAT TRICK HERO: Lionel Messi al­layed Ar­gentina’s World Cup fears with a hat-trick.

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