BRADENTON, Florida – The Qualification Stage of the 2018 Concacaf Under-20 Championship kicks off on Tuesday in Group H with a pair of Central American rivals going head to head, as El Salvador takes on Panama in what promises to be a tight, cagey affair.
El Salvador arrives into the contest feeling plenty of confidence after its conquest of Group F.
The Cuscatlecos(3W-0D-1L) clinched the group with a game to spare by playing opportunistic football.
El Salvador scored just seven goals in four group stage games and conceded five goals, with two of its three wins by just a one-goal margin.
That experience of playing in close games should help El Salvador in the Qualification Stage, where often things are on a knife’s edge and one mistake can make the difference between a FIFA Under-20 World Cup berth or not.
Panama was hugely impressive in winning Group D, accumulating a perfect 5W-0D-0L record and allowing just three goals while scoring 17 led by Saed Diaz and Diego Valanta, who each had four goals.
Like El Salvador, Panama had its fair share of close calls in the group in 2-1 victories over Canada and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Tuesday’s Group H opener has all the makings of a Central American classic in which goals will be at a premium.