In the early hours of Thursday morning UK time, the United States of America booked their place at the 2022 World Cup.
Gregg Berhalter’s side were beaten 2-0 by Costa Rica in their final CONCACAF qualifier, but that result was still enough for the team to earn a spot in Friday’s group stage draw.
USA finished third in their qualification group behind Mexico and Canada, with 2014’s surprise package Costa Rica sitting in the play-off position.
For USA, the 2022 World Cup out in Qatar will be a tournament to savour after they missed out on the 2018 edition of football’s biggest festival.
They finished fifth in their qualifying group and therefore didn’t even get a shot at redemption in the play-offs.
The manner in which they were eliminated was rather controversial, though.
On the final matchday, USA didn’t exactly help themselves by losing 2-1 to Trinidad & Tobago.
But that result would have still been enough for a play-off spot had Panama failed to win their match against group runners-up Costa Rica.
Sadly for USA, Panama achieved victory by a 2-1 scoreline. However, the equaliser in the match was the definition of farcical.
There was a scramble in the box from a corner kick and at first glance, the ball looked as if it may have gone over the line before going wide of the post.
However, the replays told a very, very different story…
Video: Panama’s ‘ghost goal’ vs Costa Rica
The Panama 'ghost goal' that helped seal their first ever World Cup qualification for Russia 2018. 😮⚽️ pic.twitter.com/YBi6WUCWKn— Yahoo Sport UK (@YahooSportUK) October 11, 2017
That is why goal line technology is so important. The ball clearly didn’t cross the line, but the officials still awarded a goal to Panama that put them on the road to World Cup qualification.
USA had every right to feel aggrieved by the events that unfolded, although victory over Trinidad & Tobago would ultimately have solved all their problems.
So they only have themselves to blame really, but that still doesn’t mean Panama’s ‘ghost goal’ wasn’t a complete and utter joke.
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Thankfully, there hasn’t been a similar incident in 2022 World Cup qualification.