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U.S. misses out on World Cup for 1st time since 1986; Argentina sneaks in

U.S. misses out on World Cup for 1st time since 1986; Argentina sneaks in
From CBC - October 11, 2017

Twenty-eight years after one of the United States' most important victories came in stunning fashion at Trinidad to end a four-decade World Cup absence, the Americans' chances for the 2018 tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

The U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago ending a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer's showcase.

'We let down an entire nation'

The Soca Warriors scored a pair of first-half goals, getting one off U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, and the United States made too many other mistakes to recover. The Americans are out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

"We let down an entire nation today," Gonzalez said.

Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama's game ended and then Costa Rica's. At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.

"We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal," coach Bruce Arena said. "That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated."

Little margin for error

The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.

The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeatcoupled with Honduras' come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama's 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres' 88th-minute goaldropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

Mexico and Costa Rica already had clinched berths, and Panama claimed the third and final automatic spot and will go the World Cup for the first time. Honduras will meet Australia in a two-game playoff next month for another spot at next year's 32-nation tournament.

Argentina sneaks in

Meanwhile, earlier on Tuesday,Lionel Messi's three goals lifted Argentina into the World Cup on the last day of South American qualifying, keeping the Albiceleste from missing out for the first time since 1970.

The two-time championsand losing finalists three years ago in Brazilrode Messi's hat trick in the thin air of the Andes and rallied for a 3-1 win over Ecuador, which took a surprising lead in the first minute.

"I told the group that Messi does not owe Argentina a World Cup, but rather football owes the world to him," Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli said. "Argentina took a step forward, and in time we can be competitive."

The top four teams in South America get automatic berths to Russia. Brazil has 41 points and clinched months ago. The other three advancing Tuesday went in this order: Uruguay (31), Argentina (28) and Colombia (27).

Uruguay beat Bolivia 4-2, Argentina won 3-1, Colombia drew 1-1 with Peru and last-place Venezuela beat Paraguay 1-0.

Messi is simply willing Argentina to the World Cup! pic.twitter.com/lG4VSSW80j

@goal

Peru (26) placed fifth and will keep alive its bid for a first World Cup appearance since 1982 after edging Chile for the South American spot in the inter-continental playoff next month against Oceania representative New Zealand.

On a dramatic last day of continental qualifying tournaments, six South American teamsseparated by only four points over 17 matcheshad shots at the World Cup entering play.

Chile and Paraguay missed out at the last moment. Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador were already out of contention.

Chile lost 3-0 to Brazil, the 12th straight unbeaten qualifying game for Brazil coach Tite.

Netherlands miss out

Several European teams also clinched World Cup appearances on Tuesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are going to the World Cup and not by the risky playoff route this time. France also sealed its ticket to Russia on Tuesday after, like Portugal, needing a second chance in the playoffs to reach the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.

After runner-up and third-place finishes at those World Cups, the Netherlands will miss out in 2018 after finishing third in France's Group A, despite beating Sweden 2-0.

Portugal beat Switzerland 2-0 in a qualifying duel in Lisbon, to extend its winning streak to nine games and end a perfect Swiss record in Group B.

The European champion already had a superior goal difference and needed a win by any score to top the group.

France also was assured to advance with three points, and beat visiting Belarus 2-1.

Belgium had already qualified and completed an unbeaten Group H program beating Cyprus 4-0. The Belgians will be in the top-seeded pot for the Dec. 1 draw in Moscow.

The European playoffs drawwith Switzerland, Sweden and Greece completing the eight-team lineupis made next Tuesday in Zurich.

Group A

Group B

Group H

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