Is USA going to miss the Football World Cup?

By Chris Rattue

United States' Michael Bradley leaves the field after his side lost their first match to Guatemala. photo / AP
United States' Michael Bradley leaves the field after his side lost their first match to Guatemala. photo / AP

The bad news for USA football fans is that another loss to Guatemala today will probably see them eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.

Last week's shock 2 - 0 away loss to the 95th ranked team has left them on the verge of missing out, having played in the last seven World Cup finals.

The good news is that when it comes to World Cup qualifiers, the USA has become a powerhouse on home soil, with two draws the only blemishes in 28 games since 2001.

The CONCACAF region is in its penultimate fourth qualification stage, with the top two teams from each of the three groups proceeding to the final grouping.

With half the games in the current stage completed, the USA lies third in its group, three points behind Trinidad and Tobago and two behind Guatemala, who have never made the World Cup finals and have been absent from the Olympics since 1988.

This afternoon's game (NZ time) at the 20,000 capacity Mapfre Stadium in Columbus - the capital of the midwestern state of Ohio - is crucial. The 30th ranked USA have never lost at the soccer-specific arena in 10 matches conceding just one goal during seven wins and three draws. Their overall World Cup record against Guatemala is 7-1-5 but they have won all six qualifiers at home.

American captain Michael Bradley told the Mail Online: "You have to understand that somewhere along the way, maybe twice, you're playing in a game where your lives depend on it."

The USA's German coach Jurgen Klinsmann is under pressure particularly after surprising selections in the first leg, although the former German star will be used to that.

Former American players are calling for his head if the USA lose with Landon Donovan in a pessimistic pre-match mood saying: "The sense I get, and I talk to a lot of the players, is that there's no confidence because there's no stability."

Meanwhile Guatemala will be without key striker Carlos Ruiz, who has twice won the Major League Soccer golden Boot. Guatemala's all-time leading scorer, with 59 goals, is prevented form leaving the country because he is in a legal dispute over property. The 36-year-old scored the second goal in Guatemala's win last week.

Meanwhile America's Olympic under-23 team is also in a do-or-die position today. They play Colombia in Texas this afternoon (NZ time), for the 16th and final spot for the tournament in Rio. The teams drew 1-1 last week.

- NZ Herald

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