Costa Rica downplays favorite role, focuses on Panama
Costa Rica players (pictured) celebrate after scoring against French Guiana in the CONCACAF Gold Cup on July 14, 2017, in Frisco, Texas, USA. (Photo: AFP)

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez has said Costa Rica is a favorite to win the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Certainly the Ticos are a formidable squad who went undefeated to finish atop Group A.

But a favorite? Veteran defender Michael Umaña doesn’t want to hear such talk ahead of the quarterfinal meeting Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field.

“You can’t talk about favorites,” Umaña said.  “It’s going to be a very close game.  We came to the tournament to impose our play and go game by game and we’ve been doing that so far.  We started a little weak, but we’ve gotten stronger, we’ve gotten better and tomorrow is a very important game for us.  We’ve never won the Gold Cup.  The most important thing is to go game by game.”

This quarterfinal clash with Panama is a complicated one.  The teams have split two of the last three meetings and the other was a 1-1 draw.  While a first-ever Gold Cup title is the ultimate goal for Costa Rica, there is no underestimating this strong Panamanian team.

“We know we’re facing a good team, but we need to go step by step and we can’t talk about being a favorite or not,” commented Umaña.  “The football between the teams has gotten very even.  Our team has a very important test tomorrow.  It’s almost a final for us.  Tomorrow, we need to take a big step if we want to keep dreaming about conquering the Gold Cup.”

For Costa Rica manager Oscar Ramirez, the rivalry has almost reached the stage of a Clasico.

“The games are always equal and each team has maybe two or three good opportunities,” Ramirez finished.  “We need to try to take advantage of those.  They’ve also gotten better in terms of offense and they’re also equal in terms of free kicks and set pieces. That can be very determining in this match.”