Panama vs. El Salvador
The final CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinal match sees Panama look to continue their run in the tournament against El Salvador at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C.
Panama is by far the surprise team in this tournament; they qualified as winners of Group C and are coming into this match off the back of two good results. The 2-1 win over the USA was followed up with an injury time goal by Blas Perez to seal a 1-1 draw over Canada, this team has proven to be no joke and should now be on the radar of the major CONCACAF nations as a possible “banana skin” in the remainder of this tournament and beyond. Coach Julio Dely Valdés learned from the last match that he has a core group of players that he can trust to carry them forward, these players are Luis Tejada, Gabriel Gómez, Felipe Baloy and the aforementioned Blas Perez. If Panama are to continue their shock run in this tournament they will need to be more physical, especially against an El Salvadorian side built to play this way. Los Canaleros will be extra motivated to win this match, as a possible second meeting with USA is a possibility in the Semifinals and they will want to prove that beating them the first time was no fluke.
As for El Salvador, they just squeaked in as one of the two best 3 rd place sides but over their three group games they progressed very nicely. In fact compared to the possible matches they could have had being in this position El Salvador may count themselves a bit fortunate, as Panama are a side they will feel are equal to them in skill level. Coach Rubén Israel will be looking to make this game a physical one, but will need to be much more disciplined and use their skill. Key players for La Selecta are Rodolfo Zelaya, Arturo Alvarez and Marvin González, especially Arturo Alvarez who will be providing the passes and movement in the midfield whether he starts the match or comes off the bench. Even though I expect this match to be physical with a lot of time wasting, cards and possible sending offs I’m still going with the OVER in this one. Panama have impressed me with their ability to attack from different angles, while El Salvador will have wanted this match over meeting the likes of USA, Honduras or Jamaica.