MIAMI, Florida – This Friday at 7:00 PM ET, Concacaf will be airing a re-broadcast of two matches from the 2018 Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship: The Qualification Stage Group H match between Panama and Mexico and the Final between the United States and Mexico. The matches can be seen on Concacaf’s YouTube and Facebook pages, plus the Concacaf App.
When Mexico and Panama took the field for their Group H finale, both teams knew that their places in the 2019 FIFA Men’s Under-20 World Cup were secure.
But another prize was still up for grabs, as a place in the Final against the United States was there for the taking.
“We realized that we had to be alert in that phase, that it was not going to be so easy,” said Mexico DF Gilberto Sepulveda in an interview with Concacaf.com.
“We knew that the next phase was going to be hard, the scorelines were close and the matches were very difficult,” added Sepulveda.
Both teams arrived into the encounter with three points and both with a goal difference of plus-one, so the margins were already razor thin at kick-off.
Panama came storming out of the gates and had two good cracks at goal inside the first 20 minutes, including a shot that thundered off the post.
The Canaleros continued to mount the pressure on El Tricolor and it would pay dividends in the 34’ with a strong right-footed finish from Ernesto Walker for a 1-0 lead.
Walker was not just satisfied with a one goal, however, and seconds before halftime the young Panamanian attacker notched his second of the game with a towering header that spun into net to hand Panama a 2-0 lead.
Staring at a two-goal deficit with just a half to play, Mexico dug deep and mounted their charge.
It began with a deep cross that struck the arm of a Panamanian defender, and a minute later in the 53’ Daniel Lopez stroked home a penalty to cut the gap to 2-1.
The momentum was now with Mexico and they pulled level 2-2 in the 61’ when some slick movement and passing from Diego Lainez set up Diego Hernandez, who one-timed a curling right-footed shot into the top left corner of net for the goal.
Both teams fancied a winner and Panama came within a whisker of finding the decisive goal in the 90’, only to see another shot bang off the post.
In the end, it as a 2-2 final scoreline with Mexico punching their ticket to the Final based on the fair play points tiebreaker.
“From the beginning our first objective was the qualification and the ticket to be in a World Cup. It is what we were looking for. Obviously, we had more objectives in the tournament, but the priority was the World Cup because we knew if Mexico did not qualify, it was going to be a failure. The team had a lot of pressure on it, so it was important that we stayed calm. We enjoyed it a lot and we’re happy for that achievement,” concluded Sepulveda.