Trinidad kick US out of World Cup
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)