By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata, Oct 28: Already under-fire with the US failing to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia after a gap of 32 years, president of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) Sunil Gulati has admitted that it is not something that is not expected of them.
The US will be absent from the World Cup finals for the first time since 1986 after a humiliating 1-2 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago.
The reversal put an end to their run of seven straight appearances at football’s most important competition.
“You take a day, take a breath thinking about that,” Gulati, who was in Allahabad, told IANS in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the FIFA council meeting here.
“We will look at what we did and did not do and what we could have done differently There is no guarantees that anybody makes the World Cup but we have got to a point that it is expected.
“It is good that expectations have risen. But, we will look at all those things now and plan to make sure we are in Qatar,” the 58-year old said.
Born in Allahabad, Gulati’s family moved to the United States when he was five years old. He has been the president of the USSF since March 11, 2006 but has come under fire from critics and rivals within the federation after the US failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Gulati however, has stoutly defended himself, asserting that he may run for re-election and lead the USSF’s joint 2026 World Cup bid with Canada and Mexico.
Quizzed if he could put a finger on any particular reason for the US not making the cut, Gulati said, “Listen, we went into the last game needing a draw against Trinidad and either of the other two games going against our favour.
“So the chances of all the three things happening at once were less than 5 percent. Unfortunately, all three things happened and I am not going to pinpoint one particular reason.We did not play well enough in the last game and we dropped some points early. So in the end, it did not go our way.”
In the wake of the debacle and the subsequent resignation of their manager Bruce Arena, Gulati came under severe critisim mostly for questionable hiring of coaches.
Asked about whether he would contest for a fourth term, Gulati remained non-committal.
Gulati said the American youth teams and the senior squad, are not at “that level” but expressed hope of a better future with their creditable performance at the U-17 World Cup.
The Americans reached the quarter-finals before losing to England.
“We are optimistic about our future. There are only two teams that were in the quarterfinals of both the U20 and U17 World Cup.
England and the US England won one and is playing in the final of the other.
“We are hopeful but we are still not quite at the level or have that edge to play in the final. We have quite a few talented players and we have got to integrate them with some of the more experienced players and win games,” he said.