After Panama sealed a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica to qualify for its first-ever World Cup, it felt like a holiday for all of their supporters. That feeling quickly turned to reality, thanks to Panama president Juan Carlos Valera, who declared Wednesday and official public holiday in the Central American country.
After Costa Rica’s Johan Venegas scored in the 36th minute to give the lead to the Ticos , Panama’s World Cup chances looked bleak. That is, until a controversial “phantom” equalizer by Gabriel Torres in the 52nd minute; the ball appeared to hit off the post and never fully cross the goal line after Torres’ header. However, without video replay readily available in Panama City, referee Walter Lopez’s call of a goal stood, and the Panamanians gained a second life.
A win was enough to seal a spot in the two-leg playoff against Australia for Panama, but as the USMNT fell to Trinidad & Tobago, the Panamanians moved up to the third automatic qualifying spot, ensuring that they will see World Cup soccer for the first time ever.