Panama only managed to finish third in group A of the 2015 Gold Cup, with the USA and Haiti both coming ahead of them, respectively. Nevertheless, that proved to be enough to ensure that they would advance to the quarter-finals.
Mexico were also unable to win their group. After exhibiting mixed form, Mexico eventually finished behind Trinidad & Tobago. Draws against Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago undid the good work of their 6-0 opening victory over Cuba. Even now, they are still struggling to hit their best form.
The Gold Cup squad of Panama football players currently accounts for more than 800 international appearances between them, which is a pretty solid number for a team of this size. Another point in favour of Panama is that much of the squad plays outside of the country, a trait that commonly benefits Gold Cup teams.
Despite the positives for Panama, most people are surprised that they will play in the semi-finals. Finishing third in their group certainly led many to assume that group B winners Trinidad & Tobago would defeat the Panamanians, but they actually lost 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Panama were able to exhibit steel in not crumbling against Trinidad & Tobago, but achieving a similar outcome will be much tougher in their next game. Mexico had a relatively tough matchup against a Costa Rica side that impressed so memorably at the 2014 World Cup last summer. And given the poor form of Mexico, it was not unthinkable that they could lose.
However, Mexico managed to remain calm and avoided conceding carless goals before eventually snatching a winner in extra time. That experience will enable the Mexicans to approach this Panama game with greater confidence. A Gold Cup win is now a possibility for a Mexico side that still has Guillermo Ochoa and Giovanni dos Santos.
Tip one: Mexico to win @ 1.66
Tip two: No for both teams to score @ 1.57
A low-scoring win in 90 minutes could be on the cards for Mexico. Ochoa appeared un-breach-able in goal against Costa Rica.