Argentina have already locked up one of Group D's two tickets to the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario; on Tuesday night in Philadelphia, Panama will try to snatch the other one out of Chile's hands.
Both teams are on four points from two games, though should they fight to a draw here, Chile own the tiebreaker thanks to a superior goal differential.
Chile won the last edition of Copa America on home soil last year, yet their title defense has been a hard slog thus far. Argentina exploited their mistakes to snare all three points in their opening match, and it took a controversial injury-time penalty kick for La Rojato dispatch pesky Bolivia in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Friday.
They've lacked the high tempo and ferocious intensity that propelled them to unprecedented heights under previous coach Jorge Sampaoli, while stars Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal have not been the powerful presences seen in action for European giants Arsenal and Bayern Munich, respectively.
Panama were always going to have a hard time with Argentina in Chicago. That said, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Anibal Godoy made the task nearly impossible by earning his second yellow card of the game barely half an hour in, sentencing his teammates to a long night of playing shorthanded. Then Lionel Messi came off the bench and ran riot on the tired Canaleros with a hat trick bagged over 20 punishing minutes in the second half.
The Panamanians have proven themselves to a resilient, united bunch in recent years. But it will take real mental strength and belief to shake off that 5-0 thumping and perform at the level required vs. Chile.
Vancouver Whitecaps striker Blas Perez was the hero in Panama's hard-earned 2-1 win over Bolivia, scoring both goals in the nation's Copa America debut. Against Argentina, he cut a lonely, peripheral figure by comparison, working hard up top for little reward as Los Canaleros had to pack in at the back following Godoy's dismissal...and he also earned a yellow card that rules him out of the Chile match.
“El Superraton” is such a central figure for Panama, not only tactically but psychologically as well. Who can fill his role as a key reference point for hold-up play and a target for service? It's a tough ask, but former Real Salt Lake man Luis Tejada may get the nod from manager Hernan Dario Gomez.