Agony and ecstasy in CONCACAF qualifiers

There was late drama on the final day of World Cup qualifiers as a late goal for the United States sent Honduras to next summer’s finals ahead of Costa Rica.

A 63rd minute strike from veteran striker Carlos Pavon was enough to give Honduras a 1-0 away win away to El Salvador, but as the final whistle blew they were headed for a playoff against the fifth place South American side.

Costa Rica had gone two goals up against the United States thanks to a Bryan Ruiz brace, and even though the US pulled a goal back, they were set to join their opponents and Mexico as the automatic CONCACAF qualifiers.

However with five minutes of injury time elapsed, American Jonathan Bornstein was left unmarked to head home an equaliser and spark dramatic scenes in Honduras where fans and players had stayed in the stadium awaiting news from the RFK Stadium in Washington.

“We put a lot of numbers in the box,” said Bornstein, speaking to FIFA’s official Web site.

“I don’t usually go up for that, but it was last-shot time. No-one marked me. I just snuck in there and the ball landed on my head.”

Costa Rica coach Rene Simoes, who took Jamaica to the 1998 finals, said his side were shattered by the result, and he wil have a battle on his hands to pick them up for a two-leg playoff against Uruguay next month.

“First I have to rebuild their spirits,” said Simoes, who was sent to the stands in the 88th minute after an altercation with the fourth official.

“They are in the dumps. This was a shock for them.

“Everything was going fine up until the last minute. The game just ended and its just very sad. Now we just have to start working again.”

There was no stopping the party in Honduras, a country that has been struggling with political unrest since June.

“We knew it would be a very tight game with an El Salvador team that is very well drilled, but that’s football,” said Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda.

“Today it’s the Honduras fans’ and their team’s turn to celebrate, thanks to the work of many years.

“Now we have months of work, months of matches and let’s hope this victory works out for the good of all.”

Honduras’ only previous appearance at the World Cup Finals was in 1982.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil Sherwin

Co-editor of Writes mostly on Premier League and A-League with contributions to other sites including TheFootballSack, InBedWithMaradona and Bloomberg's BSports. Has featured on The Guardian's Football Weekly.

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