USMNT almost there thanks to Pulisic hat-trick as Canada celebrates historic qualification

Orlando, Florida - Christian Pulisic scored a hat-trick as the USMNT thrashed Panama 5-1 on Sunday to all but secure their place at the 2022 World Cup.

Christian Pulisic applauds the crowd as he comes off the pitch after scoring a hat-trick against Panama.
Christian Pulisic applauds the crowd as he comes off the pitch after scoring a hat-trick against Panama.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Press

While still not officially assured of a spot in Qatar, only an implausible six-goal midweek defeat to Costa Rica would prevent Gregg Berhalter's side from returning to the tournament after missing out four years ago.

Costa Rica's 2-1 win in El Salvador earlier in the day meant the USA couldn't make absolutely sure of their qualification, though they went about their business professionally in Orlando.

Pulisic opened the scoring in the 17th minute from the spot after Anibal Godoy was penalized for grappling with Walker Zimmerman, and soon after it was 2-0 as Paul Arriola headed in Antonee Robinson's delivery.

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Jesus Ferreira made it 3-0 just before the half-hour mark with a close-range finish and Pulisic ensured they went into the break four up thanks to his second penalty of the day – Godoy was again the guilty party, fouling Miles Robinson.

Pulisic completed his hat-trick in style with 65 minutes played, producing a lovely touch to turn and then convert, though a late Godoy consolation prevented Zack Steffen keeping a clean sheet.

USA need only a point on Wednesday to ensure they are in Friday's World Cup draw, though in reality they could lose 5-0 to fourth-placed Costa Rica and still qualify due to their superior goal difference.

Canada finally back at the World Cup

Canada's national soccer team celebrate after clinching a spot at the 2022 World Cup.
Canada's national soccer team celebrate after clinching a spot at the 2022 World Cup.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Press

Meanwhile, Canada sealed a place at the World Cup for the first time in 36 years thanks to a 4-0 win over Jamaica.

Les Rouges have been the standout team in the CONCACAF section and their participation in Qatar had long seemed a formality.

But having passed up the opportunity to make sure of their place at this year's tournament earlier in the week with their 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, they eventually got the job done on Sunday.

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Cyle Larin settled any early nerves with a clinical finish from Stephen Eustaquio's incisive pass in the 13th minute, and although Canada were rather wasteful thereafter, they deservedly made it 2-0 thanks to Tajon Buchanan's tap-in just before half-time.

Junior Hoilett's smart finish eight minutes from time was then added to late on by an Adrian Mariappa own goal as the celebrations began in Toronto.

Canada had been absent from the World Cup since the 1986 edition in Mexico, which was also their only previous appearance at the tournament – they played three matches and lost all of them. But having unearthed something of a "golden generation," John Herdman's side head to Qatar as no pushovers.

The Maple Leafs have suffered just one defeat in the third and final round of CONCACAF qualifying, form which has seen them beat both the United States and Mexico at home and draw away to their two biggest qualification rivals.

Regardless of the USA's and Mexico's results later on Sunday, Canada need only a point away to Panama in their final qualifier on Wednesday to win the group.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / ZUMA Press

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