Phantom goal helps Panama beat Costa Rica, qualify for WC over U.S.
Panama scored a hugely controversial goal en route to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over Costa Rica, a result which also helped eliminate the United States.
The goal given to Panama in the 52nd minute to level the score at 1-1 never appeared to cross the goal line.
Together with the U.S.'s defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, Panama needed a victory to move up the CONCACAF table after falling 4-0 to the Americans on Friday, and they got the result with two second half-goals to erase an early deficit.
On the equalizing goal, the ball came into the box from a corner. It deflected off of Gabriel Torres' rear end, and struck the inside of the far post.
Panama striker Blas Perez, his shirt being pulled from behind fell to the ground and the ball bounced off his shoulder before coming to rest on the goal line.
He tried to get the ball across the line, but Costa Rica defender Ronald Matarrita, seated within the goal, kicked the ball off of Perez and out of play on the other side of the post.
However, referee Walter Lopez of Guatemala gave the goal, and though Costa Rica complained that the ball never crossed the line, the play stood.
Panama went on to score a winning goal in the 87th minute to secure their spot in Russia, a result which pushed them above both Honduras and the United States in the table.
Honduras finished in fourth place and will face Australia in an intercontinental playoff next month, while the United States was eliminated after losing 2-1 in Trinidad.
Goal-line technology to check if a ball crossed the line will be used at the World Cup finals next summer, but it is not in play in the CONCACAF qualifiers.
In 2009, Thierry Henry famously used his hand in the buildup to a goal that put France in the World Cup with a playoff win over Ireland, which pursued legal action against FIFA over the decision until ultimately receiving a €5 million settlement.
Tuesday's events were a strange reversal of fortune for the U.S., which in 2013 scored two goals in stoppage time to beat Panama in their final qualifier.
Panama would have reached the intercontinental playoff spot had it held on to win -- eliminating Mexico -- but instead was eliminated.
On Tuesday, it was the U.S.'s turn to suffer elimination in part because of Panama's late win.
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