New Zealand head coach Danny Hay has slammed the refereeing as "absolutely atrocious" and says FIFA let them down in their 2022 World Cup playoff defeat to Costa Rica on Tuesday.

The All Whites missed out on World Cup qualification with a 1-0 loss to the Ticos in Doha in the inter-confederation playoff after Joel Campbell's third-minute goal.

New Zealand had a first-half Chris Wood goal controversially disallowed by the VAR along with a penalty shout turned down, while Kosta Barbarouses was sent off after video consultation in the 69th minute.

Hay lamented FIFA's decision to appoint UAE referee Mohammed Abdulla as well as his performance in the crucial game.

"They have let us down in putting somebody in charge who has clearly not officiated at this sort of level," Hay told reporters after the game.

"When we saw the announcement and then we looked at what Australia and Peru had last night with good, quality European officiating [Slovenian Slavko Vincic], I thought FIFA have made a mistake there in such an important game."

Hay added: "If I'm being honest. I thought some of the officiating was absolutely atrocious.

"The disallowed goal was two players battling for the ball. The foul could have gone to Matt Garbett to start with. Obviously VAR got involved and overturned that."

Veteran New Zealand defender Winston Reid, who previously played for West Ham United and Brentford, echoed his coach's sentiments.

"My general concern, I wish FIFA for a game like this would have given us someone more experienced. But that's the way it is," Reid told Sky TV.

"There were some decisions that just didn't go our way, unfortunately.

"But that's part of football and that's what happened today. It's just disappointing."

Costa Rica were outplayed by New Zealand in their inter-confederation World Cup play-off on Tuesday but clung on to a 1-0 advantage to reach Qatar 2022.

In a winner-takes-all match between the fourth-placed side in CONCACAF qualifying and the OFC stage winners, Joel Campbell struck the decisive goal after just three minutes.

The former Arsenal forward squeezed between two New Zealand defenders and bundled a first-time finish past Oli Sail.

Rather than tee up a straightforward Costa Rica victory, though, that goal preceded a sustained backs-to-the-wall effort as the All Whites dominated.

Chris Wood thought he had netted a precious equaliser late in the first half, only for a VAR review to spot a foul earlier in the move.

And another video referral in the second period saw substitute Kosta Barbarouses' lunge on Francisco Calvo upgraded from a yellow card to red, leaving New Zealand with a mountain to climb.

They continued to control the contest but could not score the leveller that would deny Costa Rica their place in Qatar, joining Spain, Japan and Germany in a tricky Group E.

Los Ticos – going to their sixth World Cup and third in a row – begin their campaign against Spain in Doha on November 23.

In an ordinary World Cup year, we would either already be engrossed in the group stages or be a matter of days away from the big kick-off.

But this is no ordinary World Cup year. We still have two of the 32 places to be confirmed for Qatar 2022, which is due to begin in November.

Tuesday's intercontinental play-off between Costa Rica and New Zealand will complete line-up, with their contest falling exactly four years to the day since Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup.

Before that meeting, however, New Zealand's neighbours Australia face Peru in the penultimate play-off on Monday.

Both matches will give the victorious teams a vital taste of what it's like to play in Qatar, with the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium playing host to both winner-takes-all encounters.

Peruvian shamans are expectant

It will be a long day for any Australia fans hoping to catch the game before work – kick-off will be at 4am AEST.

Those who do brave the early start will surely be doing so out of loyalty and hope, rather than expectation.

The Socceroos' route through the Asian qualification phase was unconvincing to say the least. They scraped third place in the third round, finishing just a point ahead of Oman and seven adrift of Japan.

Australia met the United Arab Emirates in the fourth-round play-off and edged the game 2-1 to find themselves in the familiar locale of an intercontinental play-off.

This was how they reached Russia 2018, beating Honduras over two legs, with their 3-1 win at home in the second leg proving decisive after a 0-0 draw in San Pedro Sula.

Monday's game will be only the second time Australia have ever played Peru. Coincidentally, that other instance was in Russia four years ago – Los Incas won 2-0 to claim a first World Cup win since 1978, although the result mattered not as it was the final group game and neither side could reach the knockouts.

Whichever team prevails this time will be in a familiar-looking group. France and Denmark, the other two teams in Group C four years ago, await in Group D alongside Tunisia.

A group of 13 Peruvian shamans believe it will be Peru, with a spiritual ceremony – which involved poking a picture of the Australia team with a sword – conducted on Saturday, apparently reaching the conclusion the Socceroos will be unsuccessful.

If it is Peru who make it, it will be just the second time they have ever qualified for successive World Cups, a remarkable achievement in itself given the country's domestic league is regarded as one of if not the weakest in South America at the moment: none of their four representatives in the Copa Libertadores this year claimed a single victory.

And yet Ricardo Gareca ensured his team finished ahead of Colombia and Chile in qualifying. The much-vaunted Ecuador only registered two points more than Peru.

Los Ticos back from the back

New Zealand fans will have a similar conundrum to their Aussie counterparts. Do they get up excruciatingly early to endure their nail-biting contest with Costa Rica, or do they just try to sleep through it and get the result a few hours later?

Either way, it's fair to expect a few more Costa Rican eyes to be on the game. The country's president Rodrigo Chaves has authorised an extra hour's lunch on Tuesday for public servants and private sector workers to allow fans to tune in.

The fact Costa Rica even made it this far is commendable given the difficult start they had to the third round of CONCACAF qualifying.

After one win from their first seven matches, a 90th-minute winner by Gerson Torres in a 2-1 defeat of Honduras last November proved to be the turning point.

Including that game, Costa Rica won six of their final seven qualifiers. The only game they didn't win was a 0-0 draw away to Mexico – in the end, Los Ticos only finished behind the third-placed United States on goal difference.

Success on Tuesday will see Costa Rica reach three consecutive World Cups for the first time, and in all likelihood they will make that four in 2026 given hosts Canada, Mexico and USA will qualify automatically.

New Zealand's preparations certainly don't go back as far as Costa Rica's, given the Oceania qualification section was only able to begin in March.

The All Whites cruised through, as they usually do, racking up 5-0 and 7-1 wins along the way, but Costa Rica will provide much sterner opposition.

Danny Hay's men have since played warm-up games against Peru and Oman, losing 1-0 to the former and drawing 0-0 with the latter.

It was Peru who prevented New Zealand reaching Russia 2018.

While they will once again be considered underdogs, there's arguably greater reason for optimism this time around now they are not facing a CONMEBOL nation and have just one match to play, rather than a two-legged affair.

In that sense, this is almost certainly the biggest match New Zealand have played since beating Bahrain 1-0 over two legs in November 2009 to qualify for South Africa 2010.

On that occasion they ended the World Cup as the only undefeated side after drawing all three of their group games.

A rather trickier group awaits this time with Spain, Germany and Japan already in place, but New Zealand won't care in the slightest if they just get the chance to cause an upset.

Mexico secured qualification for the World Cup on Wednesday, after a 2-0 win at home to El Salvador.

Goals from Uriel Antuna and Raul Jimenez were enough for Tata Martino's side, with Mexico now securing their eighth consecutive qualification.

With the United States and Costa Rica facing off for the third automatic spot in CONCACAF qualifying, El Tri only realistically needed a draw to book an automatic berth in Qatar.

It was a dominant opening however, and Mexico were able to capitalise early to dispel any growing anxiety. Antuna opened the scoring in the 17th minute, dispatching the rebound after Nestor Araujo's powerful header from an Alexis Vega corner.

Running onto a ball behind the defence, Antuna then won his team a penalty in the 42nd minute. To essentially put the game beyond El Salvador's reach and secure his team's place in Qatar, Raul Jimenez calmly converted from the spot, sending Mario Gonzalez the wrong way.

With the win, El Tri finished the third round of qualification on 28 points, equal on points with first-placed Canada but with a lower goal difference.

Mexico have all but secured qualification for the World Cup after a 1-0 away win over Honduras on Sunday.

Fourth-placed Costa Rica's 2-1 win in El Salvador earlier in the day meant Mexico could not immediately join Canada in sealing their spot in Qatar, but victory on the road means El Tri are on the brink.

With the top three CONCACAF sides gaining automatic qualification, third-placed Mexico sit three points clear of Costa Rica and have a four-goal advantage, meaning only a defeat at home to El Salvador on Wednesday and a significant goal swing will put Tata Martino's men in trouble.

Mexico had 70 per cent possession in the first half against Honduras but failed to create any clear-cut opportunities.

They upped the intensity after half-time, with Hector Herrera, Jesus Corona and Hirving Lozano all creating chances in the first 10 minutes.

Edson Alvarez eventually found the breakthrough in the 70th minute, heading in from Herrera's corner.

With Costa Rica playing second-placed USA in their final qualifying game, even a draw against El Salvador will see Mexico through to their eighth consecutive World Cup.

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

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 USA were unable to join Canada in making 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 penalised for grappling with Walker Zimmerman, and soon after it was 2-0 as Paul Arriola headed in Antonee Robinson's delivery.

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 boss John Herdman said his team are "only getting started" after they ended the country's 36-year wait to get back to the World Cup.

The head coach is an Englishman, but he has a tight bond with Canada having previously led the women's team with distinction.

It meant Herdman was full of emotion after a 4-0 win against Jamaica in Toronto on Sunday guaranteed Canada's place at Qatar 2022.

"I still can't believe it," he said. "I've been preaching this belief, but when it finally happens I'm speechless.

"Canadians... we've won Champions League finals, we've got a kid [Alphonso Davies] playing in Bayern Munich, and we've got Canadians playing at all levels in Europe, and we've got Canadians going to a World Cup.

"We're a football country, that's all we ever wanted. We wanted that respect. We wanted people to believe we were a football country, and we've proved it.

"We're coming, we're only getting started here. What a privilege it has been as a coach. I'm proud for all of these people here."

Les Rouges have been the standout team in the CONCACAF section, and a first World Cup appearance since Mexico 86 now awaits them.

Speaking on Sportsnet, midfielder Jonathan Osorio said: "It's a dream come true. We all dreamed of this as little kids and as a Canadian that was impossible.

"And today the impossible happened. It's an incredible feeling."

Defender Richie Laryea added: "It's crazy, it's a great feeling. These guys, everyone on this team worked so hard for this moment. To do it here in Toronto where a lot of the guys are from, it's f****** incredible."

Osorio is a Toronto FC stalwart, and Laryea, who plays in England at Nottingham Forest, said of him: "This guy's done a lot for this programme. He's led the way. It's special to see him do this for club and country. For him to have that moment, it's big for all of us but especially him and his family. Everyone here knows who he is, so it's great."

Canada have qualified for the 2022 World Cup thanks to a 4-0 win over Jamaica in their penultimate qualifying match.

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.

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.

They climbed up to 33rd last month when the most recent world rankings were announced, making it the highest Canada have ever been on the FIFA ladder.

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.

Will it be Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane? Italy or Portugal – or indeed neither? Can Canada end their long wait, and are the United States and Australia at risk of missing out?

Those questions and plenty more are set to be answered over the next week or so as World Cup qualifying concludes for many nations.

Just 15 of the 32 participants have so far been confirmed for Qatar 2022, leaving 48 teams battling for the 17 remaining spots.

Fourteen more countries will be assured of a finals berth come the end of next week in what is very much crunch time for those still in contention.

Stats Perform looks at the key talking points.

Egypt seeking revenge in AFCON final repeat

Less than two months on from meeting in the Africa Cup of Nations final, Egypt and Senegal face off over two legs for a place in Qatar.

Senegal prevailed in a penalty shoot-out to claim their first AFCON crown and, buoyed by that triumph, will consider themselves as favourites here.

While both teams boast an array of top-class talent, this fixture is being billed as a showdown between Liverpool team-mates Salah and Mane.

The two biggest stars in African football, only one of the pair will be part of the World Cup later this year – and neither will fancy watching it all unfold from home.

This is not the only grudge match taking place in the CAF section over the next week and a half, as fierce rivals Ghana and Nigeria will also face off in a two-legged play-off.

Cameroon are up against Algeria, Mali take on Tunisia and DR Congo meet Morocco in the other three ties, each of which will be concluded on March 29.

European heavyweights on collision course

Since the play-off draw in the UEFA section took place in November, all talk has centered around a potential meeting between Italy and Portugal for a place in the finals.

The winners of the past two European Championships, either the Azzurri or the Selecao will miss out on the biggest tournament of them all.

It should never have been this way, of course, as both teams were strong favourites to finish top of their groups and qualify automatically.

Italy finished second to Switzerland and Portugal were runners-up to Serbia, meaning the sides must now come through two qualifying ties.

First up for the reigning European champions is a meeting with North Macedonia in Palermo, while Portugal face Turkey in Porto, with the winners of both ties advancing.

Should, as expected, Italy and Portugal come through those semi-finals, the latter will have the advantage of staging the final on home soil five days later.

For Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo, it presents what will surely be his last chance to play at a record-equalling fifth World Cup.

 

Pathways impacted by political events

Path C of UEFA qualifying is undoubtedly the most eye-catching, but there are also some tasty fixtures in the other two sections – not least a possible Home Nations derby.

Scotland and Wales were kept apart in the Path B semi-finals but could meet in the final should they overcome Ukraine and Austria respectively.

However, due to ongoing events in Ukraine, their game against Scotland has been pushed back – likely until June – as has the final involving either Wales or Austria.

In Path C, Russia had been due to face Poland, but the invasion of Ukraine forced FIFA and UEFA's hand and they have been banned from competing.

Poland have therefore been handed a bye to the qualifying play-off final, where either Sweden or the Czech Republic await. That match will be contested next week as planned.

Canada on verge of ending long wait, USA with work to do

The United States qualified for every World Cup between 1990 and 2014, but they missed out on a place at Russia 2018 after an embarrassing loss to Trinidad and Tobago.

Gregg Berhalter's side are by no means assured of one of the three automatic qualification spots in the CONCACAF section this time around, either.

USA sit second with three games to go, but they still have to travel to third-placed Mexico, as well as facing Panama and Costa Rica, who occupy fourth and fifth respectively.

Level on points with Mexico and four ahead of Costa Rica, it could be a tense finale to qualifying for the Stars and Stripes.

That should not be the case for Canada, who are eight points clear of fourth and are all but assured of ending their 36-year wait to make a second World Cup finals appearance.

Brazil and Argentina through, but who will join them?

The drawn-out South American qualifiers are nearing their conclusion and only four of the 10 sides know their fate at this juncture.

It has been plain sailing for Brazil and Argentina, who are assured of an automatic qualifying spot with three games to go, including a rescheduled meeting between the pair.

Behind those perennial World Cup representatives are Ecuador, who have been the surprise package in qualifying and can finish no lower than fifth.

Ecuador will not be content with anything other than a top-four finish, though, and they can make certain of that with victory over Paraguay.

Assuming Ecuador get over the line, that will leave Uruguay, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Bolivia battling it out for progression, which sets up some intriguing fixtures.

Uruguay occupy fourth place, meaning their qualifying aspirations are in their own hands, but they have Peru and Chile – the two sides behind them – still to face.

Socceroos sweating on finals spot

Only four teams advance automatically from the CONMEBOL section, with the team in fifth entering a play-off against the winner of the AFC fourth round in a one-off tie in June.

That may well turn out to be Australia as the Socceroos are five and four points behind top two Saudi Arabia and Japan in Group B with two games to go.

However, those remaining two fixtures are against those nations occupying automatic qualification places, so Australia may yet sneak through.

Iran and South Korea have already made certain of progression in Group A, meanwhile, leaving the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Iraq to compete for third place.

The two third-placed finishers – which, as it stands, are Australia and the UAE – will meet in a one-legged match ahead of that aforementioned play-off with a CONMEBOL side.

Barcelona defender Sergino Dest has been ruled out of Sunday's El Clasico with Real Madrid and the United States' final batch of World Cup qualifiers.

The 21-year-old injured his left hamstring during the early stages of the second half in Barca's 2-1 Europa League last-16 second-leg win over Galatasaray on Thursday.

Dest has undergone a scan and Barca confirmed on Friday that he will not return to action until after the international break.

As a result, Dest has been replaced by Arminia Bielefeld left-back George Bello in USA's squad for their qualifiers against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica.

Dani Alves is expected to slot in for Dest in a straight swap for the LaLiga trip to Madrid, but the veteran full-back is not registered for the Europa League.

Barca will face Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals of that competition, with the first leg scheduled for April 7.
 
Ajax academy product Dest has featured 20 times for Barca this term – the 10th most of any player – and has been capped 17 times by USA.

Juventus have confirmed reports Weston McKennie fractured the second and third metatarsals in his left foot against Villarreal.

McKennie had to be substituted late in Juve's 1-1 Champions League draw on Tuesday.

Reports soon followed of a double break for the United States midfielder, and the Bianconeri confirmed those claims on their return to Italy.

McKennie is expected to miss eight weeks, ruling him out of next month's World Cup qualifying triple-header with the USMNT.

Alex Sandro is set for a shorter lay-off, although Juve will also be without the left-back for the time being.

He took a blow to his calf and is to be evaluated again in 10 days.

Meanwhile, 20-year-old forward Kaio Jorge was set for surgery having sprained his knee, capping a day of miserable injury news for Juve.

Weston McKennie was injured against Villarreal on Tuesday in a blow to both Juventus and the United States.

Midfielder McKennie had to be helped from the pitch with nine minutes remaining of Juve's 1-1 Champions League draw.

And reports after the game suggested the former Schalke man had fractured two bones in his left foot.

Head coach Massimiliano Allegri was still waiting on official confirmation as he faced the media, saying: "He is going for an X-ray to his foot; we hope it is nothing serious."

An extended period on the sidelines would prompt concern for both club and country.

While Juve are battling for a top-four finish in Serie A and hoping to advance in the Champions League, the USMNT have vital World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica next month.

McKennie's international team-mate Giovanni Reyna left Borussia Dortmund's most recent match through injury.

Raul Jimenez's 80th-minute penalty has earned Mexico a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Panama to open up a four-point gap between the sides in the race to qualify for Qatar 2022.

Jimenez returned after missing the past two games with a calf injury to be a constant threat for El Tri, before converting the spotkick won by Diego Lainez in Mexico City on Wednesday.

The late strike eased the pressure on El Tri head coach Gerardo Martino after Saturday's 0-0 home draw with Costa Rica, as third-placed Mexico moved clear of fourth-placed Panama in the CONCACAF playoff spot with three games to play.

Wolves forward Jimenez had the bulk of Mexico's chances, including having an early second-half goal disallowed by the VAR.

Lainez, who was introduced as a 66th-minute substitute for Hirving Lozano, won the penalty with quick feet after being upended by Abdiel Ayarza. Jimenez sent Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia the wrong way with his cool finish.

In the fifth minute of stoppage time, the visitors almost grabbed a crucial late equalizer when Michael Amir Murillo pushed forward and glanced a header wide.

The United States took a big stride towards 2022 World Cup qualification with three set-piece goals in a 3-0 victory over already-eliminated Honduras in freezing Minnesota on Wednesday.

Weston McKennie, Walker Zimmerman and substitute Christian Pulisic netted the goals as USA moved to 21 points from 11 games, rebounding from their 2-0 loss to Canada last time out as they chase qualification for Qatar 2022 after missing out four years ago.

The victory was crucial for second-placed USA to move clear of the chasing pack, with third-placed Mexico to host fourth-placed Panama later on Wednesday.

The temperature dropped to minus 18 degrees in the first half with players from both sides permitted to wear full overhead balaclavas and hand warmers.

Juventus midfielder McKennie opened the scoring with an eighth-minute near-post header from Kellyn Acosta's free-kick, before Nashville defender Zimmerman bundled home a second in the 37th minute from a set piece.

McKennie and Timothy Weah almost combined for a third in the 50th minute only to be thwarted by substitute Honduras goalkeeper Edrick Menjivar.

Chelsea star Pulisic was introduced in the 64th minute and scored three minutes later, volleyed home a loose ball from a corner after Zimmerman's knockdown. Pulisic also had a late goal disallowed for offside.

Mexico missed the chance to move up to second in the CONCACAF standings and firm up their grip on a 2022 World Cup qualification spot after an underwhelming 0-0 draw with Costa Rica on Sunday.

El Tri struck the woodwork twice in the second half from Luis Alberto Rodriguez and substitute Luis Romo's efforts, with Mexico unable to regularly test Ticos goalkeeper Keylor Navas despite their domination.

Mexico had 73 percent possession and 25 shots on goal, compared to Costa Rica's six, but the hosts only managed one on target with Navas saving Hector Herrera's 45th-minute free-kick, heaping more pressure on head coach Gerardo Martino.

Rogelio Funes Mori had a 31st-minute goal disallowed for offside, while Hirving Lozano returned from suspension but was wasteful with a handful of chances. Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa denied Costa Rica's best chance from Celso Borges' 39th-minute header.

The result means Mexico, who have managed just four points from their past four qualifiers, remain third in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings, missing the chance to go past the United States, who lost 2-0 to leaders Canada.

Canada have 22 points from 10 games, with USA and Mexico second and third on 18 points each while Panama beat Jamaica 3-2 on Sunday to sit fourth on 17 points. The top three sides automatically qualify for Qatar, with fourth to face a playoff. Costa Rica kept alive their faint qualification hopes with the draw, sitting fifth with 13 points.

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