Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, and Herculez Gomez scored as the United States opened World Cup qualifying with a somewhat shaky 3-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda Friday night in Tampa.
Bocanegra put the Americans ahead in the eighth minute, tapping the ball into the net after goalkeeper Molvin James made a diving stop on Gomez’s header off Landon Donovan’s corner kick. With his 13th international goal, Bocanegra tied Marcelo Balboa’s record for American defenders.
Dempsey’s 26th goal came on a penalty kick in the 44th minute after Marvin McCoy upended Donovan streaking into the area.
Peter Byers scored in the 65th minute for 105th-ranked Antigua, a nation of about 88,000 that almost could fit its entire population in 65,000-seat Raymond James Stadium. Gomez restored the two-goal lead in the 72d after his initial shot and Michael Bradley’s followup both were blocked.
It was a costly night for the No. 28 Americans, trying to qualify for their seventh straight World Cup. Third-choice left back Jose Torres was stretchered off after injuring his left ankle in the 54th. Bocanegra shifted to the left and Oguchi Onyewu entered, only to overcommit and allow Byers to come in alone on goalkeeper Tim Howard.
There is little time to recover for the Americans, who play their second qualifier of the semifinal round Tuesday at Guatemala. Two teams from the group, which also includes Jamaica, advance to next year’s six-nation regional finals, which will produce three qualifiers for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
Greece 1, Poland 1 - Greece drew even in the second half with the tournament co-hosts but missed out on 3 points when Giorgos Karagounis botched a penalty kick with 20 minutes left in Warsaw.
Shortly after Dimitris Salpigidis equalized for Greece by knocking in a loose ball in the 51st minute, the diminutive striker was taken down by Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the area. Szczesny was given a red card, and Karagounis had his penalty saved by replacement goalie Przemyslaw Tyton.
Russia 4, Czech Republic 1 - Alan Dzagoev scored a goal in each half in Russia’s masterful display of attacking soccer in their Group A opener in Wroclaw, Poland.
Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov gave Russia a 2-0 halftime lead before Vaclav Pilar in the 52d minute game the Czechs brief hopes of a comeback. Dzagoev replied in the 80th minute, and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko added another in the 82d.