Mexico vs. Panama: Biggest Area of Concern for Each Team in Gold Cup Semifinal

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2013

PASADENA, CA - JULY 07:  Carlos Pena #6 of Mexico controls the ball against Marcos Sanchez #8 of Panama during the first round of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup at the Rose Bowl on July 7, 2013 in Pasadena, California. Panama won 2-1.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Mexico will look to avenge their loss in the group stage to Panama with a win in the semifinal and a trip to the final of the 2013 Gold Cup.

Should El Tri win, it would be their third straight trip the final of the tournament. More importantly, it would get some of the critics off the back of Jose Manuel de la Torre.

He was a manager under fire coming into the Gold Cup, and Mexico's performances have done nothing to inspire confidence among El Tri's supporters.

On the other side, you've got Panama, who managed to finish first in Group A, one point ahead of Mexico. They have more than enough to get past Mexico again if de la Torre's side look sluggish at all and fail to add much creativity.

In order to stave off defeat, both managers should be wary of what their team's most pressing issue is going into the match.


Mexico: Failing to Score Early or Giving Up First Goal

Mexico are at their best when they can sit back and control the game. The goals haven't been flowing for El Tri, so they'll want to keep Panama off the board altogether.

They'll be loathe to start the semifinal like they did in the group stage against Panama. Gabriel Torres scored in the seventh minute, and for the following 83 minutes of the match, Mexico were left chasing the game.

When you've got a team that has struggled to score and is not very creative, the last thing you want to have happen is to be stuck chasing the game again. The players will start pressing and try too hard to get a goal. Then you'll begin to see too many long balls going forward and too many speculative shots on goal from Mexico. It only leads to wasted attacks, which digs the hole even deeper.

Mexico are very organized at the back. They don't give up too many scoring opportunities. El Tri are prone to the silly mistake from time to time, but in general, they don't have too many issues defensively.

That's why getting out to an early lead is so critical for Chepo's side. If Mexico can get a one-goal or possibly even a two-goal lead, they'll be much more comfortable on both sides of the ball. They can play a more pragmatic style, without having to worry much about neglecting the attacking side of things.


Panama: Getting Exposed on the Counter

It's doubtful Julio Dely Valdes will look to get Panama out on the front foot and have them control possession for the entire match. Panama's best strategy is to pick their spots at the right times and sit back and let Mexico come at them.

In that 2-1 win back on July 7, Panama only had 28 percent of possession to Mexico's 72. It didn't matter who had more shots on goal and possession. The only important stat was the score line.

With Torres and Blas Perez, Dely Valdes has two forwards who will only need a couple of chances in order to find the back of the net.

Panama cannot afford to sit back for the entire match and hope some chances get created, though. Sooner or later, they'll have to mount an attack or two. When they do, they'll have to ensure they get back quickly, otherwise Mexico will be able to use the likes of Marco Fabian and Raul Jimenez to get the ball forward fast and in the back of the net in the blink of an eye.

You don't want to give a team struggling to find goals an easy path to the 18-yard box. When Panama is set at the back, it will be hard for Mexico to break them down. However, should Panama start to move men forward, some of that solidarity at the back could come undone. That would leave the door open just enough for Mexico to squeak through.