“The final celebration was muted, more of a full-body manifestation of a sigh of relief than an explosion of joy: A fist pump, a high-five, a slap on the back and a quick exit to field level to congratulate the team. Not that U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart and U.S. men’s national team GM Brian McBride were that composed for the duration of the USMNT’s critical 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Thursday night. The former U.S. internationals, who both played in qualifiers at the Azteca, were visibly tense throughout, watching the match on a platform near the press tribune in the upper bowl of the cavernous stadium. The pair spent most of the game in a strained silence that was only punctuated by brief moments of encouraging applause and a couple instances of agonizing disbelief. Their anxiety was understandable. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic – ‘Positive disappointment’: After struggles in Mexico, a young USMNT must show their resilience once again
NY Times: U.S. Ties Mexico as World Cup Remains Just Out of Reach (Video)
“Winning Euro 2020 last summer is now a bittersweet memory for the Italian national team after they failed to qualify for a second successive World Cup finals. The Azzurri will not be in Qatar, just as they were not at Russia 2018 after falling at the same playoff stage. ‘It is clear that we are destroyed and crushed, a great void will remain within us,’ said the veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini after Aleksandar Trajkovski’s last-gasp strike earned North Macedonia a famous 1-0 win in Thursday’s playoff semi-final. …”
Guardian: What now for Italy after catastrophe of missing second World Cup in a row?
Islam Slimani celebrates his crucial goal in Douala where Algeria took a 1-0 first-leg lead
“Algeria inflicted a rare home defeat on Cameroon as the 2019 African champions took a crucial 1-0 lead from the first leg of their 2022 World Cup play-off. Playing in Douala, where Cameroon have been unbeaten since losing a Nations Cup qualifier in 2000, veteran Islam Slimani’s winner handed Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi the perfect 46th birthday present. Five minutes before the break, the former Leicester City striker rose to meet Youcef Belaili’s free-kick and power a header past Ajax goalkeeper Andrè Onana….”