U.S. Cup spot in jeopardy after upset
CANCUN, Mexico -- The United States is in danger of missing next year's Women's World Cup following one of the biggest upsets in the sport's history, a 2-1 defeat to Mexico on Friday night in the semifinals of qualifying in the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
The Americans, the 1991 and 1999 champions and the defending Olympic gold medalists, must beat Costa Rica on Monday in the third-place CONCACAF playoff, then win a home-and-home, total-goals playoff with Italy, the No. 5 team in European qualifying, to reach the main draw. The first leg is in Italy on Nov. 20 and the second would be at Bridgeview, Ill., on Nov. 27.
"I don't feel good right now, but there is another game," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "I told the team that as long as there is a chance to go to the World Cup, we will take that."
Maribel Dominguez scored in the third minute, and Veronica Perez beat goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart with a header in the 27th off a pass from Juana Lopez to qualify Mexico for next year's tournament in Germany.
Carli Lloyd had tied the score for the U.S. with a goal in the 25th minute following a poor punch by goalkeeper Erika Venegas on Megan Rapinoe's corner kick.
Mexico had been 0-24-1 against the U.S.
"I think Mexico made us look not so good today," Sundhage said. "They are a very technical team. We tried hard, but we weren't lucky and Mexico had a good goalkeeper. We couldn't put away the chances we created, and if you can't do that, you won't win. The women's game is so tight nowadays, there are so many good teams out there, that you have to put away your chances."
The top-ranked United States outshot No. 22 Mexico 17-8 but is in danger of failing to reach the Women's World Cup for the first time.
The Americans outscored opponents 18-0 in the first round and had beaten Mexican in all four previous meetings in qualifiers by a combined 26-0. Since the 2007 World Cup, the Americans had been 54-1-6.
"You can't take anything for granted. We knew Mexico would be a good team and that it would be a good game," Sundhage said. "Today, they scored one more goal than we did, and their early goal made a big difference. They got the 12th player, the crowd, to support them, and they had so much energy. Not only that, when we scored to tie the game, they came back to score right after."
In the first semifinal, Canada qualified for the fifth straight time, beating Costa Rica 4-0 on goals by Josee Belanger, Jonelle Filigno and Christine Sinclair and an own goal.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press