Panama look to take advantage against injury-hit Mexico
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera put all his summer eggs into one basket when sending a second-string squad to compete in the Copa America and saving his stars for the Gold Cup. Los Manitos, as the national team are affectionately known, have not exactly been firing on all cylinders in the United States, however.
Herrera’s men needed a controversial and dramatic penalty in added time of extra-time to edge out Costa Rica by a single goal in the quarter-finals and had to scrape through the group stage in second spot after enduring mixed results.
They have, however, made it to within a game of the final and the chance to lift the trophy for a record ten times, the first since 2011.
That late strike will have given the Mexicans a boost but the most successful nation in the history of the competition will know their performances have not been up to scratch. Herrera will also be without Yasser Corona (knee), Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (clavicle) and Hector Moreno (foot), while star man Giovani Dos Santos is an injury doubt ahead of the match.
That will give the unfancied Panama a chance at 23/5, but at 5/8 the nine-time winners are still big favourites to book a final date with the United States or Jamaica in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Oliver Peralta is Mexico’s top-scorer with three goals in the tournament, although all came in the opening 6-0 victory over Cuba. Former Arsenal man Carlos Vela could also be crucial, especially if Dos Santos is not available, and could add to the one goal he already has in the competition.
If Panama are to cause an upset they will need experienced striker Luis Tejada to be on top form. The 33-year-old has scored twice already in the tournament, including a goal in the 1-1 draw with Trinidad and Tobago which Panama eventually came through after holding their nerve in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
If you fancy this game to go the distance too, we are 51/10 that it goes to a penalty shootout.