USA, Costa Rica clinch World Cup spots

Reuters, Wednesday 11 Sep 2013

USA defeated Mexico while Costa Rica drew with Jamaica to book World Cup tickets

United States' Landon Donovan celebrates his goal against Mexico during the second half of a World Cup qualifying soccer match Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio (Photo: AP)

The USA and Costa Rica punched their tickets to the World Cup with a victory and a draw in CONCACAF regional qualifying.

The Americans advanced by beating Mexico 2-0 while Costa Rica booked their spot after drawing 1-1 with Jamaica.

The qualifications were confirmed after Panama drew 2-2 with Honduras later Tuesday.

Goals from Eddie Johnson and Donovan fired the Americans to victory over their fierce regional rivals.

"It is pretty special," said Donovan. "I am proud of this team and proud of the hard work. Everyone deserves it so much."

It is the seventh straight World Cup finals appearance for the United States stretching back to 1990.

The win propelled the Americans to the top of the qualifying table with 16 points, one ahead of Costa Rica.

Honduras is third with 11 points while Panama sits fourth ahead of Mexico based on their better goals scored differential. They both have eight points while Jamaica is sixth with four points.

Johnson broke the deadlock in the 49th minute with a header before Donovan doubled the lead in the 78th from close range in front of a crowd of 24,584 at Columbus Crew Stadium.

"It was a tense game and a lot was at stake but everybody was so hungry for this win," said American coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

USA goalkeeper Tim Howard made a pair of key saves in the first half to keep the match scoreless before Johnson headed home a Donovan corner just four minutes into the second half.

"In the second half we were fantastic," Howard said. "We knew we were going to create chances and we did."

The Americans were missing four key players, including midfielder Michael Bradley who sat out with an ankle injury. Three others were serving suspensions after picking up cautions in last Friday's defeat to Costa Rica.

Clint Dempsey missed a kick in the dying seconds which could have made it 3-0.

The result stretches the Americans' unbeaten streak at home in World Cup qualifiers to 26 games, while Mexico has lost two straight in qualification.

The top three CONCACAF nations qualify for next year's 32-nation event in Brazil. The fourth place finisher will end up in a playoff with New Zealand.

The loss puts Mexico in a precarious position as they face a must-win game against Panama on October 11.

Mexico was playing its first game since coach Chepo de la Torre was replaced by Luis Fernando Tena following Friday's 2-1 defeat to Honduras at Azteca Stadium.

In the Costa Rica contest, Randall Brenes opened the scoring in the 75th minute to give Costa Rica a 1-0 lead before Jermaine Anderson tied it for Jamaica in stoppage time.

Honduras was on the verge of taking a huge step toward qualification, but Panama equalized in stoppage time when Gabriel Torres scored his second of the contest.

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