By DAN KARELL
For the first time since 2005, Mexico will not be appearing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
The Mexican National Team fell to Panama, 2-1, on Wednesday evening at Cowboys Stadium, ending their Gold Cup run in the semifinals for the first time in 22 years. The result sends Panama to just their second Gold Cup final ever and it could also spell the end of Jose Manuel De La Torre’s time as manager of El Tri.
For the second time in the 2013 Gold Cup, Mexico trailed Panama early in the match. Blas Perez was put through on goal in the 13th minute, and with the tightest of angles, hammered home a shot past El Tri goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco for a confidence boosting lead.
Mexico didn’t fold, and pressed for an equalizer. After some terrific solo work down the left wing by El Tri midfielder Marco Fabian in the 26th minute, the 23-year-old sent in a long cross through the 18-yard box, where midfielder Luis Montes met it with a diving header that rocketed in for a goal to tie the match.
Just when the game seemed to be in the balance, Panama took control from a set piece. Panamanian forward Gabriel Torres, who has scored five goals in the tournament, instead turned provider, whipping in a terrific corner kick into the middle of the area in the 60th minute. Defender Roman Torres timed his run to perfection, putting a glancing header on the ball that gave Orozco no chance to make a save.
Now with the lead in control, Panama was able to sit back and absorb the Mexican pressure, taking advantage of their height to head away crosses into the box, though Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo made three game-saving saves to earn his team another massive win for their nation.
With the victory, Panama will face the U.S. Men’s National Team in the final, a rematch of Panama’s only other Gold Cup final experience, from back in 2005. The U.S. won that match, 3-1, in penalty kicks, after a scoreless 120 minutes.
The meeting marks the fifth straight Gold Cup where the U.S. and Panama meet in the knockout rounds. Panama has never beaten the Americans in the knockout rounds.
What did you think of Panama’s performance? Disappointed to see Mexico fall short? Were you hoping for a USA-Mexico rematch, or are you happy to see ‘El Tri’ eliminated in the semifinals? See the U.S. beating Panama in the final?
Share your thoughts below.