For Mexico, it is a chance to right a wrong. For Panama, it is an opportunity to once again make history. For both, it is a game that can move them one step closer to raising the 2013 Gold Cup trophy.
Mexico and Panama are set to square off in the second of Wednesday's two Gold Cup semifinals matches at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer/UniMas), a rematch of their group stage opener in which los Canaleros shocked El Tri with a 2-1 win that marked the first time Panama had ever defeated Mexico in official competition.
The Panamanians could easily look back at the victory at the Rose Bowl which was fueled by a Gabriel Torres brace and feel good about their chances. Left winger Alberto Quintero ran circles around Mexico during the match and created both goals, including drawing the opening penalty kick.
But Mexico manager José Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre has since resorted to a new right back, with Club América's Miguel Layún taking over the spot for Israel Jiménez. That's one reason why Panama are expecting an entirely different match and one in which Mexico will come out flying from the opening whistle.
Still, Panama are confident they can get the job done and advance to their first Gold Cup final since 2005, especially after routing Cuba, 6-1, in the quarterfinals. The result helped open the scoring account of FC Dallas forward Blas Pérez as well as pad the tournament-leading goal scoring total of his striker partner, Torres (tied with USMNT's Chris Wondolowski on five goals).
At stake for de la Torre and Mexico is a ticket to the final for a chance at a potential Gold Cup three-peat in front of what is expected to be a pro-Mexico sell-out crowd at Cowboys Stadium.
Panama (4-4-2, left to right): GK #1 Jaime Penedo -- #4 Carlos Rodríguez, #23 Roberto Chen, #5 Román Torres, #2 Leonel Parris -- #19 Alberto Quintero, #20 Anibal Godoy, #6 Gabriel Gómez, #8 Marcos Sánchez -- #7 Blas Pérez, #9 Gabriel Torres
Mexico (4-4-2, left to right): GK #1 Jonathan Orozco -- #13 Adrián Aldrete, #4 Joel Huiqui, #18 Juan Carlos Valenzuela, #19 Miguel Layún -- #10 Marco Fabián, #6 Carlos Carlos Peña, #22 Alejandro Castro, #8 Luis Montes -- #9 Raúl Jiménez, #11 Rafael Márquez Lugo