U.S. World Cup in jeopardy after loss to Costa Rica

The United States put its hopes of an eighth straight World Cup berth in peril, giving up a pair of goals to Marco Urena in a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica on Friday night that brought the Americans’ resurgence under coach Bruce Arena to a crashing thud.

Urena spun around defender Tim Ream, then caught Tim Howard leaning and beat the goalkeeper to the far post in the 31st minute. Urena, the lone forward in a 4-5-1 formation, doubled the lead in the 82nd with a shot from 18 yards after David Guzman intercepted a poor pass by Geoff Cameron.

The Americans have lost two home games in a World Cup cycle for the first time since 1957 and likely will need points on the road to reach next year’s tournament in Russia.

It was just their third home loss in qualifying since 1985 — and came 16 years to the day the U.S. and Arena lost 3-2 to Honduras at Washington’s RFK Stadium.

With three games left in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, the United States was clinging to third place — the last automatic berth — and results later Friday could drop the U.S. down the standings.

The Americans play at Honduras on Tuesday night, then close the hexagonal next month at home against Panama and at Trinidad and Tobago. American forward Jozy Altidore is suspended for Tuesday’s game after an 80th minute yellow card for pushing Johan Venegas.

While the top three teams qualify, the fourth-place finisher advanced to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 team.

Mexico are Russia bound

Mexico claimed one of those spots on Friday, with a 1-0 win over Panama. 

The win made Mexico the first side from the Northern, Central Amerian and Caribbean (CONCAFAC) region to qualify for the Russia World Cup.

Hirving Lozano goal gave Mexico the win over Panama at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City.
 
The Mexicans top the six-team group with 17 points and are certain to finish in the top three to guarantee a place at the global showpiece starting in June, 2018.

CONCACAF roundup:

  • USA 0-2 Costa Rica
  • Trinidad and Tobago 1-2 Honduras
  • Mexico 1-0 Panama 

German cruise in Group C

Germany kept cruising toward the World Cup in Russia, England edged closer, and Poland’s unbeaten run was decisively ended on Friday.

Germany’s 2-1 win at the Czech Republic was the world champion’s seventh straight win in qualifying and maintained its five-point lead over Northern Ireland atop Group C with three rounds left.

Mats Hummels leaped high to head an 88th-minute winning goal to cap an interesting week for the Bayern Munich defender. He was rebuked by team management for posting a video of himself on social media jumping off a balcony into a swimming pool.

England laboured to a 4-0 win in Malta with three late goals to stay two points ahead in Group F from Slovakia, which comes to play at Wembley in a potentially group-defining game on Monday.

Poland, the world’s No. 5-ranked team, lost 4-0 in Denmark and now leads Group E by just three points from Montenegro and the Danes.

Eriksen-Christian-01092017

Christian Eriksen scored a goal and had two assists to help Denmark stun Poland with a 4-0 win on Friday. (Liselotte Sabroe/EPA-EFE)

Europe roundup:

  • Kazakhstan 0-3 Montenegro
  • San Marino 0-3 Northern Ireland
  • Czech Republic 1-2 Germany
  • Norway 2-0 Azerbaijan
  • Denmark 4-0 Poland
  • Romania 1-0 Armenia
  • Slovakia 1-0 Slovenia
  • Lithuania 0-3 Scotland
  • Malta 0-4 England

Nigeria routs Cameroon

The African champion was humbled on Friday, with Cameroon losing 4-0 in Nigeria to see its World Cup hopes slipping away.

Cameroon wasn’t the only big team left struggling in World Cup qualifying. Ghana was held 1-1 at home by Republic of Congo and needed a late equalizer for a point. Ghana still hasn’t won in qualifying. South Africa led early but still lost 2-1 in Cape Verde.

Africa roundup:

  • Ghana 1-1 Congo
  • Nigeria 4-0 Cameroon
  • Cape Verde Islands 2-1 South Africa
  • Tunisia 2-1 Congo DR
  • Morocco 6-0 Mali

New Zealand close in on South American date

New Zealand closed in on a World Cup qualifying playoff spot against the fifth-place South American team by beating the Solomon Islands 6-1 Friday in the opening match of a two-leg series.

New Zealand captain Chris Wood scored a hat trick ahead of the return leg on Tuesday in Honiara.

The winner of the series will face a South American team for a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia. The current team in fifth place is Argentina.

Oceania roundup:

  • New Zealand 6-1 Solomon Islands

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