Panama, El Salvador and Canada wrapped up their tickets to the eighth final of the World Cup qualifiers in CONCACAF in Qatar on Tuesday.
While Panama led with a long 0-0 draw with Curaçao, El Salvador secured the ticket by beating Saint Kitts and Nevis 2-0 and Canada did the same by beating Haiti 3-0 in a row in the return leg.
They join the crucial round in which Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica await, which will seed the top three to the World Cup and give the fourth card to an Intercontinental playoff.
The traditional hexagonal format has been extended from six teams and ten matches to eight teams and 14 matches, in changes drawn from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
For Panama, who played their first World Cup in Russia in 2018, this will be the third consecutive time they have run into the Final Round. El Salvador and Canada last participated at that stage in the World Cup qualifiers in South Africa 2010 and France 1998 respectively. El Salvador has not participated in the World Cup finals since 1982, while Canada has since 1986.
In their 100th World Cup qualifying match, Panama pulled a horrific 0-0 draw to advance thanks to a 2-1 win in the first leg.
goalkeeper Eloy Rom saved a penalty kick from Panamanian midfielder Edgar Barcenas in the 57th minute, which sparked joy in the stadiums of Ergelio Hato stadium with artificial turf. Maximum penalty kick handed by Michael Maria in area after center, in what was the most important game of the match until then.
Panama bit their nails in 73 when Leandro Bacona couldn’t connect a heart from Kenji Gori to the target at his disposal. Later, at 82, a shot in the area from Anthony van den Hork to a pass from Jorian Gary hit the crossbar to Panama, whose goalkeeper Luis Mejia noticed something reluctant in some matches.
After the match, players from Curaçao, an autonomous region in the Netherlands with a strong footballing touch from the European country, hugged and some cried. The Caribbean contender, who is two notches above Panama in the FIFA rankings and was crowned champion of their region in 2017, was expected to be a tough contender.
Knowing that the equalizer was fine for him and that it was the home team that was urged, the Panamanian helmsman, Spaniard-Danish Thomas Christiansen, came out with just one striker and very cautious. It was difficult for the visitors to play together outside midfield and their four shots in the first half did not disturb the opposing goal at all.
Quieter after crushing Saint Kitts and Nevis 4-0 in the first leg, El Salvador beat the Caribbean island at home with two goals from Joshua Perez in the 24th minute and Gerson Main in the 87th minute.
El Salvador changed technicians in April. Hugo Perez, who played in the 1994 World Cup with the United States, took over after the departure of Carlos de los Cobos.
Meanwhile, Canada crushed Haiti thanks to a goal against the Haitian Jose Duverger (46) and goals from Kyle Larrain (74) and Junior Howlett (89). In the first leg, he defeated the Caribbean team 1-0 with a goal from Lareen, a Canadian striker of Jamaican origin.
Canada played the return leg in Bridgeview, Illinois, due to border restrictions imposed by the Canadian government amid the pandemic.