Honduras qualifies for World Cup, Mexico to playoff

Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:22pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Honduras qualified for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil on Tuesday by clinching the last of the automatic qualifying spots in North and Central America and the Caribbean, while Mexico stayed in contention by claiming the playoff spot after Panama suffered a heartbreaking loss to the United States.

Needing only a point to qualify, Honduras made sure of their place by drawing 2-2 with Jamaica in Kingston to join the U.S. and Costa Rica as the three automatic qualifiers from the CONCACAF region after a dramatic final round of matches.

Regional heavyweights Mexico were minutes away from missing out on the fourth-placed playoff spot when they were beaten 2-1 in Costa Rica and Panama held a 2-1 lead over the Americans.

But Panama, who needed to win to leapfrog Mexico in the six-nation qualifying tournament, conceded two goals in stoppage time to lose 3-2, prompting shock, disbelief and jubilation among Mexican fans.

"Play-off courtesy of the gringos," former Mexican President Felipe Calderon tweeted. "What happened?"

In parts of Mexico City, bands played in celebration and car drivers honked their horns, while men sat outside in the street, drinking beers and discussing the last ditch escape.

Shopkeeper Marcelo Rodriguez, 40, was downcast.

"We need committed players, and we don't have any," he said. "You can't rely on your old enemy to save you."

Mexico now face Oceania winners New Zealand in a two-leg playoff in November in an effort to continue their long streak of World Cup appearances while Honduras will make their third appearance at the game's showpiece event.   Continued...

 
Honduras' Carlos Costly celebrates after scoring a goal against Jamaica in their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Kingston, October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy