USA have already started celebrating their qualification for the Qatar World Cup despite not being officially qualified.
After beating Panama 5-0 in their 13th qualification group game, the US team held up a banner that stated their qualification. However, although unlikely, if they lose by more than six goals in their last group game against Costa Rica on Wednesday, they’d be overtaken by Mexico and pushed into the play-off spots.Embed from Getty Images
“The guys didn’t know what it said. It was just handed to them,” said the US captain Christian Pulisic, after scoring a hat-trick against Panama. “Once we realised – there’s no need to show that off because we still have a job to do.”
Pulisic, who has now scored 21 goals at international level, had a standout performance. Whilst converting twice from the spot in the 17th and 45+4th minute, the Chelsea star completed his hat-trick with a wonderful goal. After controlling Antonee Robinson’s cross with a first touch past a Costa Rican player, he then tapped past another and slotted the ball into the bottom right corner in the 65th.Embed from Getty Images
“His role is to create and score for us and he did that, but there’s much more to his game,” said USA manager Gregg Berhalter when asked about Pulisic’s performance. “His work rate, defensive play, passing was brilliant. You name it he did it. There’s a reason he’s our man of the match tonight.”
Panama can’t qualify for the Qatar World Cup as they can no longer reach the 4th place qualification spot. “This last disappointment has done a lot of damage, and it will be difficult to recover from,” said manager, Thomas Christiansen, former Leeds United manager, whilst in tears after the game. “Defeats are where one learns the most.”
Anibol Godoy scored Panama’s only goal of the night. A consolation header in the 86th minute to round off a humilating match for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.Embed from Getty Images
Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira also scored for the US. Robinson got his second assist of the night whilst crossing for Arriola’s header in the 23rd mimute. Whereas, Ferreira capitalised on a lose ball in the box just four minutes later.
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