The United States and Mexico both booked tickets to this year’s World Cup in Qatar in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying on Wednesday.
The United States, who 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 – who secured qualification on Sunday – lost 1-0 at Panama but still finished top of the group.
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 hosts 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 were unable to wrap up an impressive qualifying campaign on a winning note in Panama, who were 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.
Canada, who made seven changes to the line-up from Sunday’s game, thought they had equalized 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 coach Hay: Qualifying still extremely tough
New Zealand coach Danny Hay was also proud that his team progressed through Oceania’s qualification with a 100 per cent record but is under no illusions that getting to the World Cup finals remains a tough task.
The All Whites, playing in black, took a big step towards qualifying for the finals for the first time since 2010 with a 5-0 win over the Solomon Islands in the Oceania qualifying final in Qatar.
To get to the finals, New Zealand will now have to beat Costa Rica in a one-off playoff in Qatar in mid-June.
“I’ve been really proud of the professional way the players have approached things. We came here to do a job and we’ve done that. Now we can take a breather, celebrate and look forward,” Hay said.
“The reality is that we’re 90 minutes away from reaching a World Cup, which is exciting for the country. We always believed in the process we put in place and, as for this group of players, I can’t speak highly enough of them. “
Three of New Zealand’s five goals against the Solomon Islands came from headers, with central defender Bill Tuiloma grabbing two and Newcastle United striker Chris Wood another for his fifth strike in as many games at the tournament.
Their hopes of earning a ticket to Qatar, however, might rely more on a stingy defense which conceded just one goal over the five matches.
“They’ve got some world class players and they really started to hit their straps at the back end of their qualifying campaign,” Hay added. “It’s going to be extremely tough, but the reality is that we think we’re in a really good space.”
When is the draw?
By the end of March, we will know 29 of the 32 participants at the first winter World Cup. The final three places will be decided in the intercontinental playoffs in June as well as the final European playoff final which has been delayed due to the Ukraine -Russia crisis.
The draw for the tournament takes place on Friday 1 April 2022, at the DECC venue in Doha, Qatar at around 5pm BST.
You can follow the draw live on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app.
What is the format of the draw?
The 32 nations involved in the 2022 World Cup will be drawn into eight groups of four.
Host nation Qatar will be in position one of Group A. The other nations will be split into four pots based on FIFA rankings with the top-rated teams joining Qatar in pot one.
Each group will have no more than one nation from any confederation, aside from Europe who can have no more than two nations in any one group.