MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The last time that the under-20 national teams of Panama and Guatemala squared off in a competitive match, Panama came away a 3-0 winner last July in Central American qualifying for the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
The sides will meet again on Wednesday with a berth in the FIFA U-20 World Cup at stake, as well as a place in Saturday’s Confederation final.
Panama (4-0-0, 12 points) tops the Group A table and needs only avoid to defeat in order to claim both prizes. The second-place Guatemalans (3-1-0, 10 points), however, have no choice but to get secure maximum points. The group runner-up will have another chance to qualify for New Zealand 2015 through the alternate route of a playoff, also on Saturday.
“Now we have two options to qualify” said head coach Carlos Ruiz. “The first is against Panama and then in the next game after that. The ideal thing is to qualify now, playing against Panama. It will be hard. We have to play the game with intelligence, with criteria and order to overcome that challenge.”
Mauro Portillo, Guatemala’s star forward, recalled that first encounter against Panama. He knows that the Chapines will be tested, but is keeping the main objective in mind.
“I played in that game and remember that Panama demonstrated very good teamwork. They play as a group,” said the impressive 19-year-old, who has scored once in the competition. “They were very strong, very fast and managed the ball well.
“The most important goal is in front of us: to go on to a World Cup, which would be something important for our country.”