Mexico eased past CONCACAF mates Panama 2-0 in rain-soaked Pachuca. The result sees the hosts move on to the quarter-finals, where they will meet France, who knocked out Côte d'Ivoire, on 4 July in this very same Estadio Hidalgo.
Panama were up against a smashing Mexico side, a large home crowd and mother nature too on the night. The hosts took a lead with only two minutes gone and with their first corner-kick of the game. Julio Gomez’s sharp piece of service from the left was flicked home at the near post and off the soggy turf by the clever Carlos Fierro.
Aside from the occasional long-range, set-piece and counter-attack effort, the Panamanians – familiar regional foes for Mexico – were never really a threat to their opponents in the first half. El Tri were being roared on by their adoring fans, but in the 35th minute, the crowd had a moment of collective fright when Alfredo Stephens fired in a wicked shot that Richard Sanchez just barely pushed up over his crossbar.
The half closed up the other end with three dangerous Mexican chances. Julio Gomez fired a stunning shot from 35 yards that beat Ivan Picart in the Panamanian goal but flashed just wide of the post six minutes from the interval. Just seconds later, Fierro’s tame header from eight yards also went agonisingly wide. And just as the whistle was set to blow, Arturo Gonzalez put his own header the wrong side of the post from close in.
Attacking substitute Marco Bueno had the first chance for Mexico early in the second half. He turned well in the box, but the effort was saved just as well by Picart. Mexico were heaping on sustained pressure, and their class was on display again when Gomez’s try from 30 yards skimmed the upright. The lively Fierro was causing problems again, and in the 70th minute he rounded his marker brilliantly only to be denied by another fine save from Picart.
The pressure was all on Panama as the second period wound down, and Fierro was the man again with a fine header ten minutes from time that rebounded back off the crossbar. In the end, the game ended as it began, with a headed goal from Mexico – this time it was Marco Bueno who nodded home from a corner. The hosts now move on to meet France in the quarter-finals, while Panama go home with their heads held high as their first FIFA U-17 World Cup draws to the close.