By DAN KARELL
With Mexico’s struggles in CONCACAF, and Honduras falling back to earth after their first two fixtures, Panama and Costa Rica will both have an eye on a place in the top three when the two meet in San Jose, Costa Rica tonight (10pm, beIN Sport).
The hosts put in a shift seven days ago at the Estadio Azteca, frustrating Mexico along the way to another scoreless draw that leaves them in second place with eight points, while Panama fell in their last match to the United States, 2-0, just their first loss in the Hex.
Last time these two met, Costa Rica stormed back from a two-goal deficit in the first half to draw Panama, 2-2 in the first Hexagonal round match in February. Alvaro Saborio and Bryan Ruiz scored for Los Ticos, and should be counted on again, as well as the young forward Joel Campbell, who impressed this past season in Spain and put in a good performance at the Azteca last week.
A win for Costa Rica coupled with a U.S. draw or loss to Honduras would put them top of the Hex after six of 10 rounds. A Panamanian victory would tie them with Mexico and Costa Rica on points with eight, and depending on goal differential, could vault Los Canaleros into a World Cup spot.
Here is a closer look at Tuesday’s match:
COSTA RICA vs. PANAMA
TV: 10pm, BeIN Sport USA/BeIN Sport Español
Players to Watch: COSTA RICA: Bryan Ruiz, Celso Borges, Alvaro Saborio, Joel Campbell; PANAMA: Blas Perez, Felipe Baloy, Alberto Quintero, Luis Tejada.
The Matchup: Panama looked like they didn’t belong last Tuesday at the U.S., but they were missing their star forward Blas Perez with a stomach issue. Now that that’s behind him, Perez is expected to return to the starting lineup, forcing the Costa Rica defense to focus on him and Tejada up front. Los Ticos meanwhile will likely return Borges to the starting lineup in the heart of midfield, and they’ll try at home to control the match and impose themselves on the Panamanians, and put more separation between themselves and the rest of the group.
What do you make of this match? Who do you see winning the game? Do you believe Panama can win on the road?
Share your thoughts below.