Panama 'ghost goal' helps eliminate US from 2018 Russia World Cup

Panama 'ghost goal' helps eliminate US from 2018 Russia World Cup

The 60th-ranked South American nation booked an historic berth at the showpiece by beating neighbouring Costa Rica 2-1 in a dramatic qualifying match on Wednesday (NZT) - and celebrated by partying on the streets of Panama City, with the country's President even declaring Thursday a public holiday.

Roger Gonzalez of reported on the talk of a US appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which states the body "shall be entitled to hear appeals against final decisions passed by CONCACAF".

"Best thing I've seen in a while", said one Twitter user. "Decisions of the referee are final".

In need of a win in order to finish above Honduras (who had just beaten Mexico) on goal difference, Panama suffered an early setback when Johan Venegas sent the already qualified Costa Rica 1-0 up on 36 minutes. They'd cancelled out Costa Rica's opener with a highly controversial equaliser early in the second half, but, with the US heading to a surprise defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, were set for a fifth-place finish.

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A wonderful half volley that kissed the crossbar on the way in sent the stadium into raptures - the penny dropping that Panama fans would watch their country compete in the World Cup for the very first time in history.

Their place at a eighth successive World Cup had been under threat since they
succumbed to home losses at the hands of Mexico and Costa Rica last November.

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. Even with how awful Bruce Arena's United States of America side were against Trinidad and Tobago, the worst team in the group, the USMNT would have finished third and qualified if that goal had not been given.

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