United States, Mexico book spots at World Cup finals

The United States and Mexico both booked tickets to this year's World Cup in Qatar in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying on Thursday.

Mexico

Mexico's Raul Jimenez celebrates scoring against El Salvador on Thursday.   -  Getty Images

The United States and Mexico both booked tickets to this year's World Cup in Qatar in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying on Thursday.

The United States, which missed out on the 2018 tournament, lost 2-0 to Costa Rica but still progressed along with the Mexicans, who beat El Salvador 2-0. Canada, which already secured qualification on Sunday, lost 1-0 at Panama but still finished top of the group.

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Costa Rica finished fourth in the standings and will face New Zealand in an intercontinental qualifier in Qatar in June for another spot at the finals.

On the final matchday of CONCACAF qualifying, the United States knew that a win, draw or loss by less than six goals would ensure a return to the World Cup finals. Costa Rica went ahead in the 51st minute from a Juan Pablo Vargas header before Anthony Contreras doubled the lead from close range shortly after.

The United States, whose squad includes only four players from the side which failed to reach Russia in 2018, held steady the rest of the way to ensure qualification.

Uriel Antuna put host Mexico ahead from the left side of the six-yard box in the 17th minute before Raul Jimenez converted a penalty just before halftime.

Canada was unable to wrap up an impressive qualifying campaign on a winning note in Panama, which was eliminated from contention by the United States on Sunday. Gabriel Torres scored the game's only goal for Panama early in the second half, firing home from inside the box.

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Canada, which made seven changes to the line-up from Sunday's game, thought it had equalised through Cyle Larin's header but it was ruled offside after a video review.

"For these boys this has been one hell of a journey," said Canada head coach John Herdman. "We're here, top of the group. ... And we're off to Qatar, that's all we dreamed of, as the champions of CONCACAF."

The United States, Mexico and Canada will jointly host the 2026 World Cup.

- New Zealand seal World Cup playoff spot -

New Zealand crushed Solomon Islands 5-0 in the final of the Oceania qualifying tournament in Doha on Thursday to seal a World Cup playoff berth and keep alive its hopes of a first finals appearance in 12 years.

Bill Tuiloma's header at the far post eased the pressure after a frantic start before Chris Wood doubled New Zealand's lead six minutes before the break, heading in a pinpoint cross from Tim Payne after being left unmarked in the six-yard box.

Joe Bell scored directly from a corner after the restart, his shot creeping in at the back post after slipping through goalkeeper Phillip Mango's fingers. Tuiloma scored another header from a corner and Matt Garbett buried a shot into the bottom corner in stoppage time to complete the rout.

New Zealand will meet Costa Rica in an intercontinental playoff for a place in their first World Cup finals since 2010.

The final round of CONCACAF qualifying takes place later on Thursday, with the inter-confederation playoff to be held in Doha on June 13 or 14. New Zealand was the last Oceania team to qualify for the World Cup when it made the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

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