Honduras, for so long the bridesmaids of Central American soccer, reached the World Cup finals after a 1-0 win at El Salvador on Wednesday gave them the third automatic qualifying spot from the CONCACAF region.
Honduran players stood on the field awaiting news of the
group's other vital game and broke down in emotional
celebration after learning a late equaliser had earned the
United States a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica.
That result pushed Costa Rica into a play-off with Uruguay,
beaten 1-0 by Argentina in South American qualifying, while
Honduras gained CONCACAF's final automatic berth.
"We knew is would be a very tight game with an El Salvador
team that is very well drilled, but that's football," said
Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda. "Today it's the Honduras fans' and their team's turn to
celebrate, thanks to the work of many years.
"Now we have months of work, months of matches and let's
hope this victory works out for the good of all."
Honduras's one and only previous World Cup finals
appearance was in 1982 and fittingly it was their 36-year-old
striker Carlos Pavon who scored the decisive goal on Wednesday.
Pavon, who played in qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup and
missed a late penalty in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the United
States, was seconds away from ending his career without
appearing in a World Cup finals but has earned his chance after
a night of drama.
Honduras, looking nervous and edgy, had few chances before
they grabbed the lead through Pavon's header in the 64th minute
from a beautiful David Suazo cross.
The victory - the first home loss for El Salvador in
qualifying - would not have been enough had Costa Rica hung on
to their lead against the United States.
But the tense moments of waiting for news from Washington
ended in joy for the Hondurans when the scoreline came through.
Honduras suffered political upheaval following a military
coup in June but Rueda said his team's achievement was a
success for the whole country and the "happiness of the