Costa Rica claims ticket to Russia

The Associated Press

Costa Rica’s Kendall Waston, left, celebrates after scoring a late equalizer against Honduras during their World Cup qualifying match in San Jose on Saturday.

The Associated PressKendall Waston scored in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time, giving Costa Rica a 1-1 tie against visiting Honduras on Saturday at San Jose and clinching the Ticos’ second straight World Cup berth and fifth overall.

The dramatic late goal means the United States likely needs at most a draw at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night to qualify for its eighth straight World Cup berth.

In a match postponed a day because of a tropical storm, Eddie Hernandez’s header from Romell Quioto’s cross put Honduras ahead in the 66th minute.

In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Bryan Ruiz crossed to Waston, and the Vancouver Whitecaps defender outjumped Maynor Figueroa and Johnny Palacios to head the ball past Donis Escober from eight meters out.

Waston has three international goals, including a header off a Christian Bolanos’ 68th-minute corner kick on March 28 that gave Costa Rica a 1-1 draw at Honduras.

Costa Rica has 16 points and is second in the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF region behind Mexico, which has 21 points and clinched last month.

The United States is at 12 points following its 4-0 win Friday over Panama, and would qualify with a win at Trinidad on the final night of the hexagonal. Panama and Honduras have 10 points each.

The fourth-place nation advances to a home-and-home playoff next month against Australia or Syria.

Nigeria 1st through from Africa

Meanwhile, Nigeria became the first team from Africa to qualify, doing it with a game to spare and emerging from the so-called “group of death” after beating Zambia 1-0 at home on Saturday.

The victory, clinched by substitute Alex Iwobi’s goal with 17 minutes to go, ensured Nigeria will win Group B and qualify for the World Cup for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments.

The group also contained African champion Cameroon and the former top-ranked African team, Algeria, who had both already been eliminated.

Only the five group winners qualify from Africa, and at least three of the groups will go down to the wire and the last games next month.

Egypt has a chance to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1990 if it beats Republic of Congo on Sunday to end the penultimate round of African qualifiers.

Portugal sets up showdown

In Europe, Cristiano Ronaldo scored and helped Portugal win an eighth straight game — althought it still could fail to qualify.

While Portugal was laboring to beat Andorra 2-0, using its superstar as a substitute, Group B leader Switzerland’s 5-2 win over visiting Hungary ran its own win streak to nine.

It set up a showdown game in Lisbon on Tuesday that Portugal must win while the Swiss need only a draw to top the group and avoid the playoffs next month.

France’s third-minute goal in Bulgaria was enough for a 1-0 win to retain the Group A lead by one point from Sweden, which earlier routed Luxembourg 8-0.

The third-place Netherlands needs a miracle in its final game at home to Sweden on Tuesday, despite winning 3-1 in Belarus.Speech

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