Raul Jimenez scored a spectacular goal to remember, perhaps saving Mexico’s World Cup hopes.
Jimenez’s 16-yard bicycle kick in the 85th minute gave Mexico a 2-1 win over Panama on Friday night at Azteca Stadium, a goal that came just four minutes after the visitors had tied the score on Luis Tejada’s goal.
“What a spectacular goal, really beautiful and above all very emotional,” new Mexico coach Victor Manuel Vucetich said.
The result moved Mexico (2-2-5) into fourth place in qualifying, three points behind third-place Honduras.
The top three teams qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth team faces an intercontinental playoff against New Zealand. Mexico closes at Costa Rica on Tuesday night, when Panama (1-3-5) hosts the U.S. and Honduras is at Jamaica.
Already assured of its seventh-straight appearance, the United States (6-2-1) clinched first place for the third straight cycle by beating Jamaica 2-0 in Kansas City, Kan., on goals by Graham Zusi and Jozy Altidore.
Zusi, who plays for Sporting Kansas City in the MLS, replaced Landon Donovan in the second half.
“I told Graham, you know, ‘Be ready at halftime. You’re going to play in your home stadium. Don’t worry too much about it,’” U.S. coach Ju Jurgen Klinsmann said. “And he was part of creating more energy, creating more chances, and scoring that goal will be a special memory for him, absolutely.”
Meanwhile, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Colombia qualified for next year’s World Cup, while England and Russia won and moved into position to clinch next week.
Germany (8-0-1) defeated Ireland 3-0 at Cologne to guarantee first place in Group C and reach soccer’s biggest tournament for the 16th straight time.
Belgium (8-0-1) earned its first berth since 2002, winning 2-0 at Croatia to ensure first in Group A.
Switzerland (6-0-3) clinched Group E with a 2-1 win at Albania.
In South America, Colombia (8-4-3) trailed by three goals but rallied for a 3-3 draw at home against Chile to earn its first berth since 1998.
Fourteen of the 32 spots at next year’s tournament in Brazil are set. The United States, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Iran, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and South Korea already qualified, and Brazil gets an automatic berth as host.
In North and Central America and the Caribbean, third-place Honduras (4-3-2) won 1-0 at home against Costa Rica (4-2-3). In South America, first-place Argentina (9-1-5) eliminated Peru 3-1 and has 32 points, five ahead of Colombia. Ecuador (7-4-4) and Chile (8-6-1) are next with 25 points each,
The nine European group winners qualify, and eight of nine second-place teams advance to the playoffs, which will include Croatia and Sweden.
England (5-0-4) maintained its Group H lead, beating Ukraine 4-1 at Wembley on second-half goals by Wayne Rooney, Andros Townsend and Daniel Sturridge plus an own goal by Branko Boskovic. England would clinch its fifth straight berth by beating visiting Poland on Tuesday.
Russia (7-2) won 4-0 at Luxembourg and would win Group F with a tie Tuesday at Azerbaijan. Portugal (5-1-3) allowed Eden Ben Basat’s 85th-minute goal in a 1-1 tie against visiting Israel.
Defending champion Spain (5-0-2) beat Belarus 2-1 on second-half goals by Xavi Hernandez and Alvaro Negredo.
Robin van Persie scored three goals as the Netherlands routed Hungary 4-1. Sweden clinched a berth in the playoffs, ensuring second place in Group C by beating visiting Austria 2-1.