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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - Alfredo Stevens sent Panama to the U-17 World Cup for the first time, converting a defensive mistake in the 76th minute to pace a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF championship.
The Panamanians, making their debut in the final round of the CONCACAF championship, hadn't scored a goal in the first round and eliminated the Ticos, which outscored its opponents 6-3 in its group matches.
Stevens scored when second-half substitute Omar Browne tried to a send a ball between central defenders David Acuna and William Fernandez. The ball deflected off the thigh off Acuna, a sprinting Stevens ran onto it and finished with a rolling ball under Costa Rican keeper Pedro Roman.
The result denied Costa Rica a ninth trip to the World Cup, and ended their streak after having qualified for the world championship the past five times.
Both teams struggled to generate anything in the offensive third early, but Panama twice forced Roman into athletic saves in the first 21 minutes. It also had a goal by Jorman Aguilar disallowed for offside in the 12th minute.
Conversely, Costa Rica didn't generate anything on goal the entire first half and only two shots, a header well wide by William Quiros off a corner kick in the 39th, and a side volley high by Reimond Salas in the 44th.
Aldair Paredes was the most dangerous player on either side, forcing Roman to go low to his left to block a shot from the edge of area after settling a poor attempted clearance in the 14th, and again bending an left-foot in-swinging corner in the 21st that Roman had to quickly retreat to tip over the bar after drifting off his line.
Costa Rica had the better of play in the second half, enjoying more possession and twice testing Panamanian keeper Ivan Picart within seconds in the 79th.
Picart, who had been seen limping from the early moments of the match, blocked John Ruiz - the tournament scoring leader with four goals - at the left post from close range, and then stymied Ruiz again seconds later after Costa Rican forward was able to corral the rebound.
A flurry by Ruiz in injury time highlighted a late Costa Rican surge, but the Panamanian defense was able to clear to ensure its trip to Mexico.
Shots on Goal