While US football fans struggle to come to grips with their team's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the party is yet to stop for "little" Panama.

The 60th-ranked South American nation booked an historic berth at the showpiece by beating neighbouring Costa Rica 2-1 in a dramatic qualifying match on Wednesday (NZT) - and celebrated by partying on the streets of Panama City, with the country's President even declaring Thursday a public holiday.

Panama booked a place in Russia after 10 successive failed qualification campaigns - beginning in 1978 - thanks to an 88th-minute winner by Roman Torres after a controversial equalising goal by Gabriel Torres.

Nestled between Kuwait and Moldova as the world's 131st most populous nation, Panama's biggest football achievement up until Wednesday was finishing as runner-up in the 2013 Gold Cup.


For two RPC-TV commentators calling the match, the suspense - and ensuing euphoria - was just too much to handle, with both bursting into tears at the final whistle.

The BBC reported President Juan Carlos Varela tweeted an image of himself signing off the public holiday shortly after the victory, writing: "The voice of the people has been heard... Tomorrow will be a national holiday.

"You deserve it."

The US meanwhile failed to qualify for the showpiece competition for the first time since 1986 after defeat to Trinidad & Tobago.