The hosts will fancy their chances of making further progress at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 when they take on Panama in Pachuca on Thursday. With the odds stacked so heavily against them, however, Los Canaleros are under no pressure whatsoever, which could make them very dangerous opponents.
Mexico-Panama, Thursday 30 June, Pachuca, 18.00 (local time)
Raul Gutierrez’s side deserve their status as favourites, having displayed flair and character in overcoming the challenges they have faced so far and taking maximum points from their three group games. In doing so they scored a handsome eight goals, a tally bettered only by Germany and matched by Côte d’Ivoire. In contrast, none of the other teams in the last 16 have scored fewer than Panama’s two.
Though formidable up front, the Mexicans have suffered the occasional defensive lapse, which will give Los Canaleros and their speedy forwards hope. Never happier than when sitting deep and hitting on the counter, the Panamanians will be hoping the Tri rearguard is in charitable mood and that their own defenders can disrupt the hosts’ rhythm in attack.
2 - The number of games Mexico have played against fellow CONCACAF teams at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, both of them quarter-finals. Beaten 3-2 by the USA at New Zealand 1999, El Tri downed Costa Rica 3-1 after extra time at Peru 2005, a tournament they went on to win.
“From what we’ve seen, Panama are a good side who can stroke the ball around and attack on the break. What we need to do is play our own game. That’s how we got this far and I don’t see why we need to change now,” Mexico goalkeeper Richard Sanchez.
“We learned a lot against a great team like Germany, and I’m sure that will stand us in good stead for our next game against Mexico. Obviously it’s going to be difficult because the Mexicans are playing at home, but even so we still have a chance. I think we can beat them,” Panama coach Jorge Dely Valdes.