The Associated PressCOUVA, Trinidad (AP) — 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 United States 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.
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.”
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 defeat — coupled with Honduras’ come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama’s 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres’ 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the CONCACAF 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.
No miracle for Netherlands
Meanwhile in Europe, Antoine Griezmann scored one goal and made the other as France beat Belarus 2-1 to qualify, while a 2-0 home win for the Netherlands against Sweden was in vain as it failed to reach its second straight major tournament.
France won Group A with 23 points, four clear of the Netherlands and Sweden.
To add to the Dutch disappointment, star winger Arjen Robben announced his retirement from international football after the game.
The Swedes could afford to lose by a six-goal margin, anyway, and advanced to the playoffs in second place with a superior goal difference.
For the hosts, it continued a fall from grace for a side that reached the 2010 World Cup final and the 2014 semifinals and then failed to reach last year’s European Championship.
Robben turns 34 in January, but he is still as lethal as ever cutting in from the flank and unleashing his blistering shots, as he showed with his second goal after netting the first from the penalty spot.
“I wanted to show one more time all the things that I can do,” said Robben, who took his international tally to 37 in 96 games.
A year after winning the European Championship, Portugal sealed its place in Russia with a 2-0 victory over Switzerland in Lisbon.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s team got the win it needed in the showdown against the Swiss at a packed Stadium of Light. Both teams finished with 27 points in Group B, but Portugal had a better goal difference.Speech