US, Mexico head to World Cup after final qualifying games

US will return to the tournament after failing to qualify in 2018, while Mexico qualified for the eighth straight time.

World Cup qualifying
Luca de la Torre of the US passes Costa Rica's Carlos Martinez in the final World Cup qualifying round of the CONCACAF [Mayela Lopez/Reuters]

The United States and Mexico are both headed to the men’s football World Cup in Qatar following their final qualifying games.

Despite a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica on Wednesday, the US team found itself in third place overall in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), assuring their ticket to the sport’s highest level event, which starts in November.

A 5-1 victory over Panama on Monday meant the US, which missed out on the last World Cup in 2018 in Russia, only needed to avoid losing by more than six goals in order to qualify.

INTERACTIVE Teams that have qualified for World Cup 2022 - MARCH 31
(Al Jazeera)

“We’re competitors, man. We hate to lose. In the moment I was frustrated,” player Christian Pulisic said after the game, adding it took a little bit for the qualification to “sink in”.

“This is whatever I’ve always wanted to be, and right now emotions are a bit crazy,” he added.

Mexico reaches finals

There was also little drama in Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on Wednesday, as Mexico defeated El Salvador 2-0.

Mexico, who has trudged through a disappointing qualifying campaign, entered the game in third place overall. To fall out of automatic qualification, Mexico would have needed to lose to El Salvador and Costa Rica to beat the US.

Even in that event, Mexico and Costa Rica would have been tied with 28 points, meaning the results would have had to chip away enough at Mexico’s +7 goal differential to give Costa Rica, who had a +3 goal differential entering the game, the edge.

The final round of qualifying games came after Canada on Sunday clinched first place in the region with a 4-0 victory over Jamaica, ending a 36-year streak of not qualifying for the World Cup.

Costa Rica, which came in fourth in the eight-country round, will face the winner of the Oceania region, New Zealand, in a single match in Qatar to determine which team will play in the tournament.

Go here to see which teams have so far qualified for Qatar 2022

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies