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World Cup qualifying: U.S. eliminates Panama to keep Mexico’s 2014 hopes alive
The fans at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City were ready to start a nationwide celebration.
And then the Americans stunned not just an opponent, but an entire country.
“It shows you how brutal football can be. For one side that’s almost there, and then the other side is back in,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “Now obviously you feel for the people. You feel for an entire country.”
The U.S. clinched a World Cup berth last month and didn’t use most of its regular starters. Gabriel Torres put Panama ahead in the 18th minute in a downpour. But Michael Orozco tied the score in the 64th minute, just seven seconds after Costa Rica took a 2-1 lead at home against Mexico.
But Zusi scored 1:24 into three minutes of stoppage time, deflating a crowd anticipating a celebration. Zusi has three international goals, including two in five days, and his first was at Panama in January 2012.
“I don’t know what it is. Must be something in the water,” he said.
“They pushed everyone forward. Some of them just stopped playing,” Johannsson said. “I don’t know what happened. It seemed like they just gave up.”
The Americans, who have lost just once in their last 16 games, tied their best of 22 points in the hexagonal, the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.
“This is just how football writes these crazy, emotional stories, and you’re in the middle of it, because we all felt all of a sudden when Graham scored that header that it was all quiet, silence, and you feel for them,” Klinsmann said. “Maybe it’s a little bit in my culture, in the German culture you never stop before the referee blows the whistle, because I have won many, many games in the last minute. And hopefully, we keep on winning more. But it was a very sad moment for all here in Panama. We understand that.”
It was a similar finish to four years ago, when Jonathan Bornstein’s goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., gave the U.S. a 2-2 tie against Costa Rica, giving a World Cup berth to Honduras and knocking out the Costa Ricans.
The U.S. (7-2-1) and Costa Rica (5-2-3) already had clinched berths last month, and Honduras (4-3-3) earned the region’s final automatic spot with a 2-2 tie at last-place Jamaica (0-5-5).
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