Panama, Mexico to play it again in CU20 final

Action from the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship final between Mexico (left) and Panama.  Players from that game will meet again in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on January 24, 2015 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Photo: Mexsport)

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Haven’t we seen this before? 

Two years ago, in the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship final, Mexico posted a 2-1 victory over host Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

On Saturday, more than a few of the same players, who squared off in that match, will meet again with another trophy at stake.  This time, the Montego Bay Sports Complex will be the venue as Panama (5-0-0, 15 points) and Mexico (4-1-0, 13 points) – two sides with tickets to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup already secured -- square off in the final of the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.

Panama head coach Leonardo Pipino realizes the benefits of his players’ experience with Mexico in 2013 (six of the members on his current roster played in that previous game), the Argentine pointed out that there are others in his squad that cannot rely on the past.

“The fact that so many players on the team have been to a previous final will help them to control their nerves and their anxiousness because they know what it feels like to be in a final,” Pipino noted.  “At the same time, we have a group of players that have not participated in a final and they’ll feel the pressure and nerves of playing in a grand final.

“We are going to have control that very carefully.” 

Panama’s credentials in Jamaica have been impeccable.  It was the only team to emerge from the first round with a perfect record and, equally impressive, the sole team not to concede a goal. 

Though Mexico did incur a blemish on its record, drawing 1-1 with Haiti in the last Group B game on Thursday after four straight wins, Pipino is fully cognizant of what the Canaleros are up against.  In that U-17 final, three players on the Tricolor’s U20 selection played in that match

“To face Mexico is an honor,” said Panama head coach Leonardo Pipino.  “It’s gratifying to face such a great team as Mexico.  Mexico is a team that prepares to be world champion, not just to reach a World Cup.  It will be a good test for us, headed towards a World Cup, to meet Mexico.”

NOTES:  The following players competed in the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship final: Panama - Jesus Araya, Jaime De Gracia, Ismael Diaz, Jomar Diaz, Kevin Galvan, Ervin Zorrilla; Mexico - Erick Aguirre, Alejandro Diaz, Jose Robles.