Emotional end to CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in images, videos and words
North America is still buzzing following the unforgettable conclusion to CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying competition. Planet Fútbol has compiled the sights and sounds of the triumph and tragedy of Tuesday night's results, as well as the poignant and pointed aftermath.
Mexico, now a shadow of the juggernaut that claimed the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and the 2012 Olympic gold medal, was minutes from a historic and humiliating World Cup elimination. Then Brad Davis found Graham Zusi with a pinpoint cross, and with a flick of his head, the Sporting Kansas City midfielder altered the fate of two countries.
“Hopefully, I get free vacations to Mexico whenever I want,” Zusi told MLSSoccer.com.
Adding insult to injury, U.S. forward Aron Johannsson delivered all three points to the visitors and cemented Panama’s ouster with this stunning game-winner.
There was silence at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City. But not on Mexican television:
Deadspin offered this translation of the already-legendary TV Azteca tirade:
Even the U.S. Soccer Federation was happy to remind its rivals who was responsible for its survival. Mexico now will face New Zealand in a home-and-home playoff next month for a spot at the World Cup.
Back in Panama, U.S. forward Terrence Boyd felt the hosts’ pain.
The anguish on Luis Tejada’s face was palpable. He had scored the 83rd minute goal that everyone (except the U.S.) assumed would be the game-winner.
U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who backed up Brad Guzan, summed it up.
And after the match, the Americans discussed their epic comeback.
Defender Clarence Goodson’s insight into Panama's late-game strategy was telling.
“They really kept guys high, still. They were winning the game. They should have dropped off … just play primitive,” he said. “They kept two strikers high. It was very surprising. Still had a lot of gaps in their team for the game being so late and the World Cup on the line. And we punished them for that.”
On Wednesday morning, there was sorrow in the Panamanian press. Perhaps realizing the tactical mistake mentioned by Goodson, coach Julio Dely Valdés claimed responsibility for the “death” (from Crítica).
Maintaining the macabre theme, Panama’s Mi Diaro said, “We mourn”, while El Siglo called it a “Night of terror”.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, there’s a sense of relief and embarrassment. El Tri is alive, but thanks only to their arch-rivals.
La Razón expressed its gratitude to Uncle Sam and highlighted Michael Orozco, the Puebla FC player who scored the U.S.’s opening goal Tuesday. Meanwhile, La Prensa wasn't shy about sharing its opinion of La Selección, which still has a World Cup lifeline despite winning only two of its 10 Hexagonal matches.
Récord published a reminder that Javier "Chícharito" Hernández, who scored only two goals during a miserable Hex, owed his place in the playoff to his "AmigoUS" north of the border.
Bumpy Pitch, a Los Angeles-based company run by former pros Brian Dunseth (now a TV analyst) and Ben Hooper, sells t-shirts popular with players. They were quick to capitalize on Tuesday night's drama and, by Wednesday morning, were already hawking a shirt designed to remind everyone where things stood in CONCACAF following an extraordinary night of soccer.
SI.COM STAFF: Re-live the tense finish to CONCACAF World Cup qualifying as it occurred