The final slots for the Copa America Centenario tournament were filled on Friday, with minnows Haiti taking the first slot by shocking their fellow Caribbeans from Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0, in the qualifying playoffs in Panama City, Panama.
The game was a tight affair, with poor finishing and moments of physicality on both sides. George was yellow-carded for a hard 34th-minute foul on Max Hilaire that drew shouts from the Haitian bench, but after Hilaire received attention from trainers, he was able to continue in the game.
Trinidad & Tobago ‘keeper Jan-Michael Williams made a huge save on Kervins Belfort in the 78th minute to keep the game scoreless. But Belfort would not be denied, as he took a slight touch on an early cross from Pascal Millien to put Haiti ahead in the 86th minute.
In the second game on the night, also in Panama City, the host nation thumped Cuba, 4-0, and earned the sixth and final CONCACAF spot in next summer’s tournament.
The Panamanians got first-half goals from Gabriel Gomez and Luis Tejeda to take a commanding lead over the over-matched Cubans.
Amando Cooper added a third soon after the halftime break, before Blas Perez, who departed FC Dallas this offseason, capped off the scoring with a header.
Haiti and Panama join four other CONCACAF teams — the US, Mexico, Costa Rica and Jamaica — and 10 South American nations in the tournament, which kicks off June 3 when the United States plays at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Along the the US, the seeded teams are Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. The full draw is set to take place at a later date.