Panama 'ghost goal' helps eliminate U.S. from 2018 Russia World Cup


Leading 2-1 at home in their final qualifying match, the fans in Panama City were desperate for their team to run the clock down.

Four years ago, Graham Zusi's famous goal in stoppage time against Panama eliminated Los Canaleros from the World Cup and extended a lifeline to Mexico, who won an intercontinenal playoff to qualify for the final tournament in Brazil.

His 88th-minute victor allowed them to perform the most timely leapfrog, jumping from fifth place up to the third and final CONCACAF automatic qualifying spot, behind Mexico and Costa Rica.

But it worked. Putting the ball into orbit via row Z helped Panama secure a 2-1 win thanks to goals from Johan Venegas and Gabriel Torres to earn a place at Russian Federation 2018.

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When a corner was swung into the box in the 52nd minute, visiting goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton wildly missed his punch and the ball ended up bouncing goalwards off Panama's Gabriel Torres and kissing the post.

One goal down against Costa Rica, underdogs Panama scored a scrappy and controversial goal to equalise and that misery was compounded by some sensational time wasting late in the game after Panama had edged ahead with minutes remaining. But, there is no goal-line technology in the North American qualifiers and the referees made a very, very bad judgment call. It's hard not to brand him a hero, unless you're a Costa Rica citizen, of course.

The BBC reported President Juan Carlos Varela tweeted an image of himself signing off the public holiday shortly after the victory, writing: "The voice of the people has been heard".

Unfancied to get a result against their talented rivals, Panama shocked the footballing world by leading 2-1 with the clock winding down to full-time.