MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Panama (5-0-0, 15 points) clinched places in the next FIFA U-20 World Cup and the final of the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship with a 1-0 win over Guatemala (3-1-1, 10 points) on Wednesday at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.
The Panamanians completed Group A play with maximum points from five games to finish in first place, setting up a meeting with Mexico (4-0-0, 12 points) in Saturday’s championship match.
Ismael Diaz scored the game-winner in the 65th minute for his fourth goal of the competition. The powerful 17-year-old forward jumped high at the edge of the six-yard to head home a right-sided cross by Julian Velarde, who was named man of the match. It was the first goal Guatemala had conceded in 366 minutes.
The tally came just two minutes after Guatemalan Cristian Jimenez headed Mario Hernandez’s left-sided corner kick just beyond the right post.
In a tightly-contested encounter, both sides managed to generate valid scoring opportunities.
Hernandez unleashed a 21st minute effort that Panama goalkeeper Jaime De Gracia did well to save.
Panama then came close on three occasions before the end of the first half.
In the 35th minute, Carlos Small whistled past the right post from distance after a miskicked clearance by Kevin Grijalva. Seconds later, Velarde fired from the right into the outside netting, while Diaz did the same just ahead of the break.
Guatemala’s last chance to qualify for the U-20 World Cup will also come on Saturday, when it meets a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
NOTES: Panama has played in four previous FIFA U-20 World Cups (2003, 2005, 2007, 2011) … Ismael Diaz scored five goals in Central American qualifying for the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship … Seven members of current Panama U-20 squad played at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates: Jesus Araya, Jaime De Gracia, Ismael Diaz, Jomar Diaz, Kevin Galvan, Chin Hormechea and Ervin Zorrilla.