The United States’ schedule for final round 2014 World Cup qualifying looks like a panini sandwich on hard, crusty bread: It’s tough and a little abrasive on the outsides but softer and more inviting in the middle.
It starts with a relative high degree of difficulty and finishes roughly the same, but the run of four home games over five match dates in the middle provides the more inviting part, where manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s men surely must make their move.
The “wheres” remain TBD, but the “whos” and the “whens” for final round CONCACAF World Cup qualifying are out.
The region’s governing body held its draw last night in Miami, filling in the skeleton schedule for the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama and Jamaica. The top three qualify for Brazil 2014; the fourth-place finisher goes to a home-and-away play-in.
For Klinsmann’s team it begins in San Pedro Sula against a strong and confident Honduran team boosted by a recent series of successes. That’s the first of a slate where the early rounds threaten to leave U.S. fans in a state of high anxiety.
Here is the schedule … then we’ll go over several important points and considerations:
- Alas, there will be no La Guerra Fria Tres (The Cold War III). That was the branding for a previous pair of very chilly winter matches against Mexico. As the draw approached, U.S. fans in the know wanted nothing more than to open on Feb. 6 against Mexico at home. That match almost certainly would have gone to Columbus, site of triumphs in La Guerra Fria and La Guerra Fria Dos.
- Don’t be shocked it things look a bit bleak after four rounds. In fact, everyone might just brace for it. Opening in Honduras and then playing away at Mexico and Jamaica in Rounds 3 and 4 leaves the United States facing a real possibility of resting with some worry near the bottom of the group nearing the halfway pole. In that case …
- The June 11 contest at home against Panama at home will be an absolute, no-questions asked, gotta-win, white knuckler.
(MORE: Additional notes and quotes from Wednesday’s draw)
- Generally speaking, all home games can be classified as such. And generally speaking, the United States gets its business done: The United States has not lost a World Cup qualifying match at home since 2001.
- Klinsmann admits that opening on the road is hardly ideal. “But if you don’t have the first game at home you make the best out of it,” he said.
- Finishing on the road at Panama is a tough spot. If the United States needs a result in that one, look out. Panama is a tougher side than past years’ versions. Remember last year’s Gold Cup, when the Panamanians became the first team to defeat the United States in the tournament’s group phase?
Play until you hear the referee’s whistle. In theory, so simple. In practice, it only takes a single second of concentration lapse to become an internet sensation for all the wrong reasons.
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Such is life for Karyn Forbes, member of the Trinidad and Tobago women’s national soccer team. In the above video, you’ll observe Forbes, a 24-year-old midfielder, giving away perhaps the most bizarre penalty kick you’ll ever see. You’ll have to watch for yourself to believe it.
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Unfortunately for Forbes, though the whole of the ball might have crossed the whole of the end line, the referee did not blow her whistle… not until Forbes picked the ball up with her hands and carried it to her goalkeeper.
BERLIN (AP) The German Football League (DFL) has given the go-ahead for the possible testing of video replays in the Bundesliga over a two-year pilot phase.
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The DFL says it will be lodging an application with FIFA to take part if the pilot phase is approved by the International Football Association Board at its next annual general meeting on March 5.
The DFL says video replays could be used by a “team of impartial match officials for the purpose of avoiding any evidently incorrect decisions” and that the pilot phase would be preceded by “intensive preparations.”
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These would include the settlement of costs among FIFA, the IFAB, the DFL and German football federation, as well as training for the candidates.
West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.
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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.
“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”
Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.
Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?
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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.
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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.