Action from the September 6, 2013, World Cup qualifier between host Costa Rica (left) and the United States. They both qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup four days later. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – They had to wait approximately 45 minutes to celebrate, but the United States and Costa Rica became the first teams from CONCACAF to qualify officially for the 2014 FIFA World Cup after a drama-filled Tuesday.
The U.S. defeated visiting Mexico (2-0) and Costa Rica drew with host Jamaica (1-1) to swap places atop the Hexagonal table. The Ticos fell from first to second on 15 points, while the Americans took a single-point lead at the summit.
In order for each to be guaranteed a top-three finish by the end of the evening – and with two dates of fixtures remaining -- Panama had to lose or draw at Honduras in Tegucigalpa. Down 2-1 in stoppage time, 19-year-old defender Roberto Chen leveled for the visitors, lifting his team into fourth place by virtue of more goals scored than Mexico, even though both have eight points after eight games. They will meet on the next matchday, October 11, at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
The result also sealed berths in Brazil next summer for the U.S. and Costa Rica.
The United States, which won a fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup title earlier this summer, qualified for its seventh straight World Cup and 10th overall.
Costa Rica earned a fourth trip to the FIFA event, advancing once again after missing out on South Africa 2010.
With 11 points, third-place Honduras has the inside track on the confederation’s last automatic qualifying place, but faces a stern test in its next outing, when it faces Costa Rica for the fourth time this year.
Even last-place Jamaica (4 points) remains in contention thanks to the last-gasp draw against the Costa Ricans in Kingston.