Casey Ryder, Staff Writer |
On Wednesday, Mar. 30, the United States men’s national soccer team qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar following a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica. The team was all but assured qualification heading into the match after they thrashed Panama 5-1 in Orlando three days earlier. That result meant that if they didn’t lose by six goals or more in Costa Rica, they’d be assured of a place in Qatar.
There was an element of disappointment in the U.S. camp given what had just transpired, however, that disappointment was quickly overshadowed by the fact that the team had just achieved its main objective of the campaign which was to qualify. After the match, U.S. center back Walker Zimmerman said, “Obviously, as competitors, we hate losing. But coming into the locker room, I think everyone just decided, ‘you know what, we realized our goal’, which was to qualify.” Zimmerman, who captained the team against Costa Rica, went on to say, ”So everyone forgot about tonight. We put ourselves in a position where we could afford to do that.”
The result is particularly significant given the team’s failure to qualify for the last World Cup in Russia. Last qualifying cycle, the team suffered a shocking 2-1 defeat against Trinidad and Tobago on the last day of qualifying, which saw the team eliminated from the World Cup.
Christian Pulisic, who is the poster boy of the current team, is one of a few players from the current team to have played on that infamous night in Couva. Pulisic could be seen in tears after the loss to Trinidad and after Costa Rica, he reflected on that night and how far the team has come since. He said, “That was one of the toughest days of my life… I’ll never forget it. Now to be in this position and qualify for the World Cup, we’re all extremely proud. This is where I’ve always wanted to be, and right now, my emotions are crazy.”
Pulisic also shared Zimmerman’s sentiments that it was ok for the team to feel satisfied given that they had achieved their main objective. He said, “I think we’re allowed to be happy and proud. We qualified for the World Cup. The process is not easy. We know that.”
In addition, the team found out two days later who their opponents would be in the group stage of the tournament which is set to kick off on Nov. 21. They were placed in pot two of the draw and they were drawn into Group B with England, Iran, and will play the winner of the UEFA.
The team will begin play on the opening day of the tournament against the winner of the UEFA playoffs. They will then face England, who are considered by many to be tournament contenders, the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 25. Finally, they will conclude group play on Nov. 29 at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha against Iran. All three games will kick off at 2:00 p.m. eastern time.
Despite some of the lackluster performances in qualifying, U.S. fans can feel optimistic heading into Qatar. The team has received a favorable draw and in addition to Pulisic, the team features young stars such as Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, Sergiño Dest, Tyler Adams, and Yunus Musah who all apply their trade at big clubs in Europe.
The team has qualified, the draw has been complete, and so for U.S. fans and the rest of the soccer world, it’s just about counting down the days.