DENVER – Panama secured the Group A title after playing to a scoreless draw against Canada in the CONCACAF Gold Cup at Sports Authority Field on Sunday.
The Panamanians finished the group unbeaten at 2-1-0 (7 points), earning a berth in next weekend’s quarterfinals in Atlanta. For the second consecutive Gold Cup, the Canadians (0-1-2, 2 pts.) were eliminated by the Central American side.
It is the fifth time in six attempts that Panama has reached the knockout stages. Two years ago, it fell to the United States in the semifinals.
Panama head coach Julio Dely Valdes opted for an alternate lineup against Canada, resting most of the starters he used in the opening matches. Marcos Sanchez and 19-year-old Roberto Chen were the only ones retained from the usual first eleven.
It was a strategy Valdes said he would use in order keep players fresh for the quarterfinals.
“A rested team in these short tournaments is very important,” Valdes said prior to the match. “It can be a determining factor on the field.”
Canada had some lineup changes of its own with interim head coach Colin Miller starting Ashtone Morgan and Pedro Pacheco for the first time this tournament.
Youth and inexperience was evident on the field as both teams tried to establish a rhythm. That process resulted in some atypical attempts on goal from difficult angles. Jairo Jimenez tried to catch Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan off guard with a right-footed shot from about 25 meters. Backing towards his line, the 25-year-old slapped the ball over the crossbar.
La Marea Roja’s first attempt at goal, though, came in the 18th minute when Sanchez bent a shot wide of Canada’s left post.
Sanchez tried another shot, this time looking for the right post from 18 meters. Borjan knocked the shot away.
Canada nearly scored off a corner kick in the 28th minute. David Edgar sent a header towards the goal mouth off a Marcel de Jong corner kick.
The clearest chance of the first half, perhaps, came five minutes before the break. Panama veteran forward Blas Perez headed wide right from inside the box.
NOTES: Panama has conceded one goal or less in seven consecutive Gold Cup matches, including two straight shutouts…Panama is unbeaten in seven of its last eight Gold Cup games…Canada has not scored a Gold Cup goal in 298 minutes