The finale of the World Cup qualification group fixtures saw plenty of dramatic final moments: from the euphoria of those who succeeded to the misery of those who said goodbye to their chances to be in Russia next summer. Of them all, there was arguably nothing as impressive as the reaction of Panama supporters to their first ever qualification to the World Cup.
In order to qualify, Panama not only had to win against Costa Rica in the last matchday, but they also relied on last-placed Trinidad & Tobago winning against the United States. When halftime came, Trinidad & Tobago was getting the job done —they were 2-0 up at Couva— but Panama was behind at home, since Minnesota United's Johan Venegas had scored for Costa Rica. Just after the break, Pulisic would score for USA, giving hope to the Americans and enhancing the despair of the Panamanians. But everything would change a few minutes later, when Panama made it 1-1 at their game against Costa Rica with a highly controversial ‘ghost’ goal from forward Blas Pérez. Soon his teammate, Román Torres from the Seattle Sounders, would score the winner in the 88th minute. And since the USA did not manage to make a comeback in Trinidad & Tobago, Panama certified their spot in the upcoming World Cup for the first time in their history.
However polemic it was, their qualification meant a lot to the people of Panama. Thousands were watching in tension the last minutes of the game, as their national team tried their hardest to defend their lead. This level of hysteria lead to some crazy moments; there was a woman that invaded the pitch and faked three faints to waste time, for example. “La Doña," as she was referred to, immediately became a national hero.
A Panamanian TV channel even suggested that she should be featured in a World Cup Panini sticker:
Two commentators from that same TV channel were also some of the main characters of the night, as their impressively passionate celebration was massively shared on the social media:
What happens in the commentator box when Panama qualifies for the first time ever to World Cup?This ? pic.twitter.com/U2qpSuxopr— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) October 11, 2017
After the final whistle, large crowds took the streets to celebrate their historic achievement. The national team also went out to enjoy with the fans.The celebration went on for the whole night. These were the scenes at 4am:
???????? 4am & the entire team is still in the streets celebrating with the people ?? magical night in Panamá City pic.twitter.com/bp56VXYTCN— MyNationalTeam (@mynationalteam) October 11, 2017
It looked as if no-one in Panama was going to sleep at all that night. But thankfully for them, no one would have to work the following morning either: the president, Juan Carlos Varela, declared a national holiday:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">??Panama's president <a href="https://twitter.com/JC_Varela?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JC_Varela</a> declares Wednesday a national holiday after Canaleros reach first-ever <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldCup</a> <br>??? <a href="https://t.co/KqYOCTCfBK">pic.twitter.com/KqYOCTCfBK</a></p>— #WCQ ⚽️? (@FIFAWorldCup) <a href="https://twitter.com/FIFAWorldCup/status/918041211973324801?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 11, 2017</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>