Photography by Shamil Tanna

World Cup qualifier, October 11 2017

Panama 2
  • Perez (53)
  • R. Torres (88)
Costa Rica 0
  • Venegas (36)

Panama qualified for their first ever World Cup in dramatic fashion. Going into the final round of fixtures, Hernán Darío Gómez’s side needed to beat Costa Rica and hope that Trinidad and Tobago could secure a victory against the USA (who had beaten Panama 4-0 a few days earlier), in order to reach Russia.

With Panama a goal down at half time, the pain of what had happened four years earlier, when they missed out on the chance to qualify for Brazil thanks to a last minute goal, threatened to resurface.

But in the 53rd minute, a controversial equaliser raised the home side’s hopes. A corner caused chaos in the Costa Rica box and the ball initially appeared to cross the line off Blas Perez (it has since been labelled Panama’s “ghost goal”). A draw wasn’t enough though and Panama’s hopes of reaching Russia faded with every minute that passed.

In this exclusive piece for The Coaches’ Voice, Gómez explains how everything changed in the final dramatic minutes of a game that secured Panama’s place at Russia 2018 and sent a nation wild with joy.

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