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Panama president declares public holiday after national team reach WC

Panama celebrate after securing their place at next year's World Cup.

Panama president Juan Carlos Valera has declared Wednesday a public holiday in the country after the national team qualified for their first ever World Cup.

Panama beat Costa Rica 2-1 in Panama City on Tuesday and that result coupled with United States losing 2-1 at Trinidad and Tobago allowed Los Canaleros to finish third in the CONCACAF standings behind Mexico and Costa Rica, with the top three securing automatic qualification.

Valera wrote on Twitter after the game: "The voice of the people has been heard; celebrate Panama's historic day. Tomorrow will be a national holiday."

Valera announced that workers would be given the day off while schools will be closed in order for people to celebrate their national team's feat with their families.

He then shared a photograph of himself signing the decree with a message that said: "You deserve it."

Valera heaped praise on the national heroes, coached by Colombian Hernan Dario Gomez, and wrote: "Thanks team; today you made history, making the dream come true for more than four million Panamanians. We are going to Russia 2018!"

Fans celebrated late into the night after the game and the national team's achievement made the front page of all the local newspapers.

"We are going to the World Cup, damn it!" read the front page of Critica newspaper.

Panama needed Roman Torres' late strike to seal the win on Tuesday. They had previously been awarded a hugely controversial goal to level the score at 1-1, with the ball not appearing to cross the line only for referee Walter Lopez of Guatemala to give it.

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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