Panama loses narrowly, departs U-20 World Cup

Panama's Ervin Zorrilla holds off Joseph Aidoo (white jersey) of Ghana during their FIFA U-20 World Cup match on June 5, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Panama’s hopes of advancing into the knockout stage of the FIFA U-20 World Cup were dashed Thursday, when a late goal by Emmanuel Boateng lifted Ghana to a 1-0 win in the final Group B game for both at North Harbour Stadium.

The Panamanians, who drew with Argentina (1-1) and lost to Austria (2-1) to open the tournament, were eliminated, while Ghana finished atop the group with seven points.

“For us, the most important things are that these players evolve physically and gain more international experience,” said Panama head coach Leonardo Pipino.  “All of our guys play for local clubs.  They are good enough to play in the CONCACAF region, but internationally we lack the necessary experience.”

Boateng capitalized on a defensive mistake in the 82nd minute, stealing an attempted pass back at midfield and then battling one-on-one with a defender Francisco Narbon for 40 yards.  He pulled the ball back at the arc and clinically finished inside the right post with his right foot.

Determined to equalize, Panama came close moments later as Jesus Araya headed a corner kick off the crossbar.  Fidel Escobar’s subsequent effort from the rebound was blocked in front of the net.

A foul in the bottom right edge of the box resulted in a penalty in favor of the CONCACAF runner-up, but Escobar slipped as he approached the ball and put his attempt high in the 89th minute.