The final qualifying rounds of the World Cup have all but concluded, with a few surprise nations heading to Russia next summer.
There were a number of shock results, including Iceland topping group I ahead of Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey. Prominent African giants Cameroon won’t feature either, and a heavy slice of passion and culture will be left with it.
Notable stars will be missing, too. Alexis Sanchez will be nowhere to be seen as Chile failed to qualify, and Arjen Robben announced his retirement after the Netherlands finished behind France and Sweden, which was not enough to qualify in what is a lengthy transition period for the country.
The USA weren’t as close. In what has been widely branded as a national embarrassment and another wasted golden generation, the USMNT finished second-from-bottom in their group, with their qualifying hopes shattered by a 2-1 defeat to a weak Trinidad and Tobago side, of which both goal scorers are ironically MLS players.
They were ultimately eliminated when a controversial ‘ghost goal’ awarded to Panama against Costa Rica gave them three points, and safety. A goal-mouth scramble resulting in a goal from Gabriel Torres which didn’t cross the line caused drama and brought up questions as to why CONCAF qualifiers do not utilise goal-line technology. It’ll be the first men’s world cup without the USA since 1986.
Fans and journalists alike were not pleased, especially on Twitter. Kyle Martino said: “Today is the worst day in soccer history.” Writer Jon Heyman tried to make light of the situation, saying: “maybe we could beat Trinidad or Tobago. the combination may be just too much for us. #USMNT.” Redditors grabbed their pitchforks, as u/Roric said: “Destroy the entire US soccer federation from the ground up.”
Today is the worst day in US Soccer History.
— Kyle Martino (@kylemartino) October 11, 2017
Some fans have put it down to the shambolic management of Bruce Arena, a manager widely criticised for wasting the country’s last ‘golden generation’ of players, brought in after the sacking of Jürgen Klinsmann. Others target the players, claiming that morale and effort was at an all-time low. Redditor u/Mattao5 said: “The fact that majority of the USMNT shouldn’t even be on it let alone start is sad. Complete change is necessary. Board and everything.”
maybe we could beat trinidad or tobago. the combination may be just too much for us. #USMNT
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 11, 2017
It also couldn’t have happened at a worse time. US soccer is reaching the highest level of interest in history, with prominent players such as John Brooks, Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin creating a new image for the sport in the top of European leagues. To see such high-quality players has never been seen before in US soccer since the likes of Landon Donovan Clint Dempsey in his prime.
19-year-old left-winger Christian Pulisic is making waves in the Bundesliga with Dortmund, and has been widely accepted as the future of the sport for the US, and despite providing the clear majority of the legwork for his country in these qualifying stages, scoring 7 and assisting 7 in just 12 games. Perhaps missing this world cup will do him more good than bad, as he’ll be focusing on snatching that starting right-wing position ahead of new signing Andrey Yarmolenko at Dortmund.
It’ll also be interesting to see what happens away from the players. It was reported by a number of reputable sports outlets that broadcasting giant Fox spent $400million dollars on broadcasting rights for the World Cup. Will the audience be watching, even though their young superstar and his teammates didn’t make the cut? Time will tell.