SAN JOSE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s leadership of the United States national team will come under further scrutiny after a 4-0 defeat in Costa Rica threw into doubt their prospects of reaching the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018.
The former Germany striker and manager led the Team USA to the second round of the finals in Brazil in 2014. Since then, however, they have finished fourth in their own hosting of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2015 and also in their staging of the Copa America Centenario this past summer.
Defeat in San Jose came four days after an embarrassing 2-1 home defeat to Mexico, leaving the US without a point and bottom of the six-team qualifying table.
Costa Rica, World Cup quarter-finalists in 2014, took the lead two minutes before half-time when Johan Venegas headed home a Christian Bolanos cross. Bolanos scored a second after 69 minutes on a Bryan Ruiz assist and substitute Joel Campbell struck twice more in the closing stages.
The top three teams qualify automatically for Russia while the fourth-placed side enter an inter-c0ntinental play-off against ‘lucky losers’ from Asia.
Messi leads way
In South America Argentina pulled back on qualifying track thanks to a Lionel Messi masterclass in a 3-0 win over Colombia. The Barcelona superstar scored from a free kick before creating the other two goals for Lucas Pratto and Angel Di Maria.
Victory lifted Argentina into fifth place in the table with 19 points, one behind Ecuador and Chile, who beat Uruguay 3-1 with two goasl from Alexis Sanchez .
However Argentina’s players, led by captain Messi, decided afterwards not to talk to the media in reaction to heavy criticism after earlier performances.
Brazil moved four points clear at the top of the group after winning 2-0 in Peru. Manchester City-bound Gabriel Jesus scored the first and laid on the second for fellow Olympic champion Renato Augusto.
The top four go through to Russia with the fifth, at present Argentina, competing in the intercontinental playoffs.
In Asia Australia slipped back in their campaign to reach a fourth successive finals after a surprise 2-2 draw away to Thailand.
The Socceroos dropped to third in Asia’s Group B behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, outside the top two spots that guarantee automatic qualification.