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Jan 28, 2022 at 2.05am UK
Costa Rica
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Preview: Costa Rica vs. Panama - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Costa Rica vs. Panama - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Friday's World Cup Qualifying - North Central America clash between Costa Rica and Panama, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Costa Rica will aim to improve their chances of qualifying for the World Cup 2022 when they welcome Panama to the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica on Thursday.

The visitors, meanwhile, find themselves in the sole playoff spot, but level on points with Mexico who sit in the third and final automatic qualification place.

Match preview

Sitting five points adrift of Panama who occupy the playoff place, Costa Rica could significantly boost their chances of a sixth World Cup finals appearance with a win on Thursday.

After suffering consecutive defeats to the United States and Canada, Los Ticos got their qualifying campaign back on track in their most recent fixture.

Luis Fernando Suarez's team played host to Honduras and grabbed the opener through Oscar Duarte before Rommel Quioto restored parity for the visitors.

With the contest drifting towards an uneventful conclusion, Gerson Torres struck in the fifth minute of stoppage time to snatch all three points for Costa Rica and, in the process, rekindle their qualification hopes.

Thursday's aim will be to collect consecutive victories and having picked up seven of their nine points on home turf, Suarez will know the importance of obtaining a positive result against Panama if they are to qualify for their third consecutive World Cup finals.

As for Panama, they are bidding to qualify for their second World Cup finals and with six qualifiers left to play, Los Canaleros can be pleased with their efforts so far.

Thomas Christiansen's side have picked up 14 points from their eight games, with only a poorer goal difference keeping them out of the automatic qualification spots.

They collected six of those points in the last round of qualifiers in November as they came from two goals down to beat Honduras 3-2 before beating El Salvador at home.

Los Canaleros also trailed against El Salvador courtesy of Jairo Henriquez's opener in the first minute, but two second half goals in quick succession from Cecilio Waterman and Freddy Gondola helped Panama to a 2-1 victory.

Only Mexico have collected more away points in the third round of qualifying than the six that Panama have collected, and a positive result on Thursday would go a long way to cementing their place in the playoff spot.

Costa Rica World Cup Qualifying - North Central America form:
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W

Panama World Cup Qualifying - North Central America form:
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W

Panama form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • D

Team News

Costa Rica will be forced to split up their trusted centre-back partnership of Duarte and Francisco Calvo, with Duarte unavailable due to injury.

Suarez may opt to replace the injured defender with the experience of Kendall Waston, although Juan Pablo Vargas is also an option.

The responsibility of leading the line is likely to fall to Jose Guillermo Ortiz, who is aiming to score for the first time in World Cup qualifying.

Panama, meanwhile, are without the services of Waterman due to injury.

The visitors could bring Gondola back into the starting lineup after the forward came on at half time to score against El Salvador in November.

After serving a one-match suspension against El Salvador, Alfredo Stephens will be available for Las Canaleros, and he could come into the starting XI for Thursday's contest.

Costa Rica possible starting lineup:
Navas; Fuller, Waston, Calvo, Matarrita; Galo, Tejeda, Suarez; Campbell, Bennette, Ortiz

Panama possible starting lineup:
Mejia; Murillo, Escobar, Andrade, Davis; Godoy, Martinez, Carrasquilla; Gondola, Stephens, Blackburn

We say: Costa Rica 1-2 Panama

Panama have emerged victorious in three of the last four international meetings between the two sides, and we think with Costa Rica desperate for three points, that the visitors could look to capitalise on the counter attack to edge out their hosts.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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