Action from the Copa Centroamericana game between Panama and Costa Rica (white jersey) on September 7, 2014, in Dallas, Texas, USA. (Photo: Mexsport)
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – In four CONCACAF Hexagonal outings, Panama (1W-2D-1L, 5 points) has yet to score or concede more than one goal.
As a result, heading into the next pair of matchdays, the Canaleros currently sit third in the table, good enough for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup if the qualifying competition was to end today. But the three teams behind them are each within a striking distance of two points.
Next up is an encounter Thursday against host and second-place Costa Rica (2W-1D-1L, 7 points), which has won 10 consecutive home games in World Cup Qualifying. The sides met at the Estadio Nacional in the fourth round, a 3-1 win for Ticos.
Nevertheless, Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez is confident heading into the all-Central American showdown.
“We have a balanced team that knows how to defend, that is getting to the point of perfection defending with 11 and attacking with 11,” said the 61-year-old Colombian. “That is one of the goals that we have with this team. What we want from this team mentally is that they forget we have never won in Costa Rica. We are watching neither history nor stats. We are watching for today and tomorrow, so that’s why we are positive we will emerge victorious.”
Despite the regional rivalry and what’s at stake, Costa Rica has Panama’s respect.
“I like Costa Rica,” Gomez concluded. “I like their players, the coach, the stadium. There are friendly people. It’s a football country, so when you go to footballing countries, of great teams, you have to play well. The boys also like playing there. We see that Costa Rica plays well, so it is a good match for the two.”
Panama’s last win over Costa Rica came in an international friendly, 1-0, on March 31, 2015. Armando Cooper was on target for the host in the second half.