LA CHORRERA, Panama - In a riveting encounter at the Estadio Agustin "Muquita" Sanchez on Saturday, host Panama booked its place at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, posting a 4-2 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship quarterfinal victory over Trinidad & Tobago.
The result ensured that the Canaleros will meet Canada -- winners by the same score over Jamaica earlier in the day -- on Wednesday in the semifinals of the regional event.
It looked to be the Caribbean side's night, when Andre Fortune took advantage of a back-tracking Panamanian defense in the 19th minute to rocket a shot from 25-yards out into the upper right corner of the net.
The goal did nothing to diminish the speed of play, however, as both teams continued to motor up and down the field as if fatigue would not be a factor.
Panama netted a deserved equalizer 10 minutes before the break. Captain Jesus Araya latched on to a loose ball in the Trinidad box, turned a fired a shot that goalkeeper Johan Welch got his fingertips on, but could not prevent from finding the back of the net.
In the 62nd minute, the Panamanians went up 2-1 through Luis Zuñiga. The 16-year-old struck a right-footed effort from 25-yards out that slipped under Welch, who was in outstanding form up until that point.
Shortly afterwards, Welch kept the young Soca Warriors in the contest with two tremendous saves, including one off the foot of Ismael Diaz on a breakaway.
Diaz, though, would score the first of his two goals in the 79th minute. Milciades Molina dribbled down the left wing and passed to the tireless Ervin Zorrilla, sprinting into the Trinidad box. The Tauro FC product, demonstrating skill and awareness beyond his age, back-heeled the ball exquisitely to Diaz for a clinical finish.
Trinidad would not quit and made it 3-2 seven minutes later, with Weah Adams slotting home from close range after a brilliant individual effort from the fleet-footed Akeem Garcia down the left wing.
As the clock elapsed, Diaz netted his second of the goal game two minutes from time.
Panama, which finished third at 2011 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, will be making its second straight U-17 World Cup appearance. Trinidad was eliminated from contention.