Panama are in a solid position to return to the CONCACAF Nations League semi-finals for a second successive campaign when they host Costa Rica in a decisive second leg encounter on Monday at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
Los Canaleros came away with an impressive 3-0 victory versus the Costa Ricans on Thursday, giving them a massive advantage heading to Panama City.
From the opening whistle on Thursday, the Panamanians looked like the superior side, going in front after just four minutes and pouring it on from there, giving themselves a big cushion heading home.
Thomas Christiansen's men are 4-0 in their previous four Nations League matches played in Panama during the group stage, outscoring the opposition 13-0 over that span.
Although passage into the next round is looking good, indeed the veterans on this squad will remember what occurred to them at Estadio Romell Fernandez during the 2019-20 Nations Leagues when they were beaten 2-0 by Bermuda and 3-0 against Mexico.
The Panamanians are unbeaten in every Nations League fixture they have ever played in when leading at the half, winning five of those six matches.
They are 7-0 all-time in this competition when netting multiple times in a single match and have already scored as many goals in this edition of the Nations League (12) as they had in the previous two combined (12).
It has been over 14 years since Los Canaleros suffered a defeat by at least three goals to a Central American side when the Costa Ricans bested them 3-0 at the 2009 Copa Centroamericana.
The opening match for Gustavo Alfaro as manager of Costa Rica could not have gone much worse, as his side are now in a huge hole coming into this game.
Thursday was the worst defeat for the national team in the history of this tournament, with Los Ticos having been outscored 7-1 in their previous two matches in all competitions.
Having to win by at least three goals seems like a mountainous task for a side that have never scored more than twice in a single Nations League encounter and have not won a game by that margin since a 4-0 triumph over Nicaragua at the 2019 Gold Cup.
Since that tournament concluded, Los Ticos have lost their last four quarter-final fixtures in CONCACAF competitions and have not advanced beyond the last eight since the 2017 Gold Cup when they defeated Panama 1-0.
Not since June 2021 have the Costa Ricans lost when leading at the half, playing Honduras to a 2-2 draw in the third-place match at the inaugural Nations League, losing 5-4 on penalties.
As if the outlook did not look bleak enough for Los Ticos, they have not triumphed in Panama against Los Canaleros since September 2016 (3-1 win).
Adalberto Carrasquilla has a goal involvement in back-to-back Nations League games, while Yoel Barcenas had a goal and an assist in their previous away match at this tournament when they defeated Curacao 2-1.
We saw nearly an entirely different starting 11 for Costa Rica on Thursday from their previous encounter versus the United Arab Emirates (4-1 loss), with Jefry Valverde, Joel Campbell, Jimmy Marin and Manfred Ugalde being the only ones to keep their place in the opening lineup.
Kevin Chamorro has conceded nine goals in his last three matches between the sticks after Keylor Navas, who was not selected for this encounter, was beaten four times in their friendly defeat to the United Arab Emirates.
Francisco Calvo has scored a total of three goals for Costa Rica in previous Nations League fixtures, though it was Aaron Suarez and Anthony Contreras who netted the last time they won a match in this competition, defeating Martinique 2-1 in March.
Panama possible starting lineup:
Mosquera; Escobar, Cordoba, Blackman; Murillo, Godoy, Carrasquilla, Davis; Fajardo, Waterman, Rodriguez
Costa Rica possible starting lineup:
Chamorro; Arboine, Gonzalez, Calvo, Oviedo; Campbell, Aguilera, Bennette, Marin; Ugalde, Contreras
We say: Panama 2-0 Costa Rica (Panama advances on aggregate)
In the opening leg, Costa Rica looked like a side still getting familiar with one another, which is what they are currently dealing with.
Meanwhile, the Panamanians were cohesive and sharp on the ball, and their fluid passing and strong midfielders are as good as anyone remaining at this tournament, so we are sceptical they will slip up on Monday.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
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