Rematch, rematch—read all about it!
When these two teams last met in the first leg of Group A play at the Gold Cup, Panama pulled off a pretty major upset, winning, 2-1. It was a result that had fans and pundits alike wondering whether manager Jose Manuel de la Torre was really the man for the job.
But Mexico recovered, winning its next three games by a combined score of 6-1. Meanwhile, Panama has yet to lose and has won three of its four contests, outscoring opponents by a total of 9-2.
Without question, Mexico is the more talented team, but as Panama has already proven, it isn't intimidated by the Concacaf giants. Let's preview this intriguing Gold Cup semifinal.
When: Wednesday, July 24, 10 p.m. ET
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Watch: FOX Soccer
Streaming: FOX Soccer 2Go
What They're Saying
Yes, Mexico advanced to the semifinals with a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.
No, it wasn't that impressive a victory, and Mexico won't exactly come into its game against Panama playing world-class football, as Andrea Canales of ESPN notes:
No, Mexico wasn’t dominant or creative in attack or sharp defensively, but they were winners. Judging by the subdued reaction of the majority-Mexican crowd after the match, they had expected much more—a win they could be proud of, a triumph that would put their doubts and fears to rest.
In the end, the fans were mostly relieved that they hadn’t showed up to watch a loss. Then again, some of those fans had shown up early enough to see a confident Panama team tear Cuba apart by a score of 6-1. Seeing El Tri barely scrape past T&T by the minimum margin could not have been heartening to those trying to imagine Mexico getting revenge against Panama for the earlier loss in group play.
It’s not that Mexico looked completely hopeless. Orozco was a rock in goal and Layun generated opportunities. But the finishing has to be much, much better if Mexico is going to get past Panama. Everything else needs to improve as well, but nothing needs as much of a jump in quality as the final shots. The last time that Mexico failed to reach the final was 2005, but lately, El Tri has been hitting a number of low-water marks.
Mexico Players to Watch: Raul Jimenez and Marco Fabian
Mexico's play hasn't exactly been inspiring, but one aspect of the team's play has been, as its two best players, Raul Jimenez and Marco Fabian, have played up to their potential.
Fabian has been Mexico's talisman from the first game of the tournament and has notched three goals in four games. Jimenez has two goals and scored the lone goal against Trinidad and Tobago.
For Mexico to win, those two have to be the best players on the pitch. Jimenez must constantly be in motion and lose his defenders while Fabian needs to take over on the wing. Don't be surprised if these two put on a show.
And if they do, Mexico will surely win.
Panama Player to Watch: Gabriel Torres
Gabriel Torres has been on fire for Panama with five goals in four Gold Cup games. With Mexico's defense looking shaky throughout this tournament, Torres could be the spark that ignites Panama to a second upset over El Tri.
Obviously, Blas Perez is dangerous and can't be ignored, as he also features for Panama's A-team. But if Mexico turns its attention to Perez, Torres could make El Tri pay.
Mexico has revenge on its mind and heavy expectations to live up to at the Gold Cup. Mexico is also simply the better team. This will be a close match, but Mexico will survive, 1-0.
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