By Ivan Orozco
DENVER – At the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Panama -- after winning its opening two games -- was in a position to finish group play with an unblemished record, but it lost that opportunity by drawing 1-1 with Canada.
The Central Americans acknowledged not playing at the standard they set for themselves in triumphs over Guadeloupe and the United States.
“We don’t want that to happen again,” said Panama head coach Julio Dely Valdes, whose squad takes on Canada, once again, in its final Group A match at Sports Authority Field on Sunday. “We have tremendous respect for Canada and we can’t have a bad game again.”
Panama saved a point against the Maple Leafs two years ago, thanks to Luis Tejada’s injury-time equalizer. As a result, Canada fell short of advancing to the quarterfinals.
Despite not scoring a goal yet in this edition of the Gold Cup, the Canadians are still mathematically alive and can qualify as one of the two best third-place teams.
“We will play to win the three points,” Canada interim head coach Colin Miller said. “We will do all we can to get the three points. We are not out of it.”
Canada comes into the match with a depleted roster and will most likely use younger players.
“We came here to play,” Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan said. “We have young guys, but we have to have the right attitude and keep our heads up.”
As for the Central American nation, Panama leads the group with six points after beating Mexico and Martinique in its first two games. Dely Valdes has found an offensive formula that translates into results. The inclusion and resulting productivity of Gabriel Torres and Alberto Quintero have been key to the Canaleros’ success thus far.
“It is a combination that can help us,” Valdes noted. “But there are other players that can help us, too. We want to have a problem. We want it to be difficult to choose players because they are all playing well.“
Panama hopes to maintain the quality of its play going forward, though, Valdes said that there is a chance he will make some changes to the lineup against Canada.
“The objective is to finish in first place,” Valdes added. “We will have some modifications compared to the other games. It shouldn’t affect us. We told all of our players to be ready if called upon.”
For CONCACAF official notes about this game, click here.