For Canada, the task is simple: win, and win big.
The Canadians can mathematically advance with a slim margin of victory, or even a draw, over Panama in Tuesday’s match at Livestrong Sporting Park (7 pm ET, Galavisión, Sportsnet One), but they would be much better off if they won comfortably.
For the Panamanians, their final Group C match is all about playing smart, picking up at least a point to ensure top spot in the group, and conserving their energy for the quarterfinals.
With two teams on very different agendas, there could be some very interesting soccer on display Tuesday night.
The Central Americans are coming off a stunning 2-1 victory over the United States, a frantic match that saw the US taste defeat for the first time ever in Gold Cup group play.
Panama jumped out ahead 2-0, and, like in their opener against Guadeloupe last week, they just barely hung on while their opponents stormed back late in the match. The Panamanians will look to play a more consistent 90 minutes against a desperate Canada side that’ll provide a good test before the knockout round begins.
The Canadians enter the match on the heels of an uninspiring 1-0 victory over an undermanned Guadeloupe team, with Dwayne De Rosario clinching the three points by way of a successful penalty kick early in the second half of that match.
Canada have shown the ability to possess and move the ball around quite well, but shortcomings in both the attacking and defensive thirds have plagued Stephen Hart’s crew thus far in the competition.
Panama: Blas Perez
The striker has been lively in both of Panama’s matches so far, and he will be a handful for the Canadian defense. His strength and athleticism will ask a lot of questions of Canuck central defenders Kevin McKenna and Andre Hainault, who have dealt with similar strikers in the USA and Guadeloupe matches with varying degrees of success.
Canada: Atiba Hutchinson
The Canucks sorely missed Hutchinson’s presence in the midfield against Guadeloupe as the PSV Eindhoven man sat the game out with a mild leg injury. Hutchinson can dictate play from the middle of the pitch as well as anyone in the Gold Cup, and if he’s not ready to go Tuesday, it’ll be a big blow for Canada.
Panama Projected Starting XI
Penedo, Baloy, L. Henriquez, Torres, Dasent, Gomez, Barahona, A. Henriquez, Cooper, Tejada, Perez
Canada Projected Starting XI
Borjan, Ledgerwood, Hainault, McKenna, Klukowski, Johnson, Hutchinson, De Rosario, de Guzman, Simpson, Gerba
Panama once again comes out flying, and gets an early one. The Canadians battle back, relying on fitness and composure to chip away at the early deficit. It ends in a draw, 1-1.