PANAMA battled through to the 2018 World Cup in hugely controversial circumstances last night – after scoring a goal that never went in.
Panama scraped to a 2-1 win over Costa Rica as the USA missed out on qualification for the first time since 1986
The US started the night in third qualifying place but ended up fifth after losing 2-1 to Trinidad & Tobago.
However, it was the drama unfolding in Panama’s win against Costa Rica that had everyone talking.
There were plenty of questions raised over whether Panama’s first goal should have counted in the 52nd minute after a goalmouth scramble from Gabriel Torres didn’t appear to cross the line.
Replays suggested the ball did not make it over the line but the referee gave it anyway.
There is no goal-line technology in use during CONCACAF qualifying.
With the scores level going unto the final few minutes, Roman Torres popped up with the winner in the 87th minute to spark wild celebrations.
And as Panama desperately tried to hold on to their narrow lead one of their substitutes caused further controversy.
With the ball out of play on the touchline, a substitute ran towards the ball and kicked it high into the stands to stop the Costa Rica winger taking a quick throw-in and ultimately wasted some time.
His tactics worked as Panama held on to secure victory and progress to the World Cup at the USA’s expense.
USA boss Bruce Arena said: “We had everything there for us.
“We failed on the day. No excuses. We failed today. We should have walked off this field with at least a point.
“We should not be staying at home for this World Cup and I take responsibility.”
Can the USA appeal the decision?
USA have 21 days to appeal against the Panama ghost goal that crushed their World Cup dreams.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport have specific guidelines that come into place on occasions when sides or individuals believe they have been wronged.
The US appear not to be planning to appeal with spokesman Michael Kammarman today saying: “As far as I know there is no recourse. Decisions of the referee are final.”
Although there is a route they could go down to avoid missing out on the World Cup 2018.
Rules from CONCACAF say an appeal can be filed for “parties directly affected by a decision”, which in this case would be America.