Yenith Bailey, a Panamanian revelation

  • Panama’s teenage keeper Yenith Bailey performed superbly against USA

  • The Central Americans meet Mexico on Wednesday for a place in the semis

  • CONCACAF region has 3.5 berths for France 2019 on offer

When a match finishes 5-0, it is unusual to see the winning strikers offering heartfelt congratulations to the defeated goalkeeper for her great performance. Yet that is precisely what Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan did last Sunday, such was the extraordinary display of Panama’s Yenith Bailey.

“Very, very impressive,” said Lloyd after the final whistle. “I think I went up to her a couple of times to tell her how well she was doing. She played a fantastic game and I hope that gives her lots of self-confidence.”

Lloyd scored three goals on Sunday, but Bailey denied her at least as many more. The goalkeeper, still only 17, was a huge presence in the Canalero goal, and this despite the knocks she took during the game and having to play with a sore shoulder. Unsurprisingly, she was the outstanding figure for a Panama side who on Wednesday take on Mexico for a place in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Women's Championship and the chance to play for one of the region’s 3.5 tickets to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.

Particularly impressive was the double save made from Lloyd as she ran onto a cross from Morgan Brian. The USA striker met it with her head from just a few metres out, but Bailey managed to parry it. Lloyd then latched onto the rebound, this time with her left, but again the keeper got a hand to it.

After the final whistle, Alex Morgan, a substitute on the day, did not hesitate to take to the field to shake hands with the exhausted keeper and offer a few words of encouragement and congratulation.

Over the course of the 90 minutes, Bailey demonstrated keen reflexes and astute positioning – not to mention bravery in going into challenges with players more physically powerful than her. It is no wonder then that her display earned her widespread applause and international recognition. The teenage shot-stopper, who will graduate this year from the Republic of Haiti School, plays her club football for Sporting SM.

This Wednesday will provide Bailey and her team-mates with another chance to showcase their talents. The showdown with Mexico will have the feel of a final about it, with both sides dependent on themselves as they seek a semi-final berth and the chance to keep their World Cup dreams alive.