Mexico's Andres Guardado (pictured) has been one of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup's standout performers. (Photo: Mexsport)
ATLANTA – A place in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup final is on the line Wednesday as six-time tournament champion Mexico squares off against 2013 runner-up Panama at the Georgia Dome.
Here are Three Points to consider ahead of the game:
1) One step awayIt may not have gone exactly to plan, but both Mexico and Panama now stand just one match away from a berth in the 2015 Gold Cup final. While the Mexicans settled for second place in Group C, the Panamanians nearly missed out on the knockout stages entirely after finishing third in Group A behind the United States and Haiti. The quarterfinals proved equally complicated as the Canaleros then overcame Trinidad & Tobago on penalties, while the Tricolor outlasted 2014 World Cup quarterfinalist Costa Rica, courtesy of a last-gasp penalty kick by Andres Guardado (120’+4). Despite their difficulties, both teams have proved resilient and will take the field with everything to play for…expect fireworks.
2) Can Panama do it again?When Panama and Mexico get together, it will be rematch of their 2013 Gold Cup semifinal. In that match, a 60th minute header by Roman Torres proved the difference after a diving header from Mexico’s Luis Montes had nullified an earlier Blas Perez. That loss is sure to be fresh in the minds of Mexican players on Wednesday as they look to keep both their Gold and Confederations Cup dreams alive.
3) Guardado takes center stageThe 2015 Gold Cup has been a breakout tournament for Mexico midfield maestro Andres Guardado. When the Tricolor have struggled, it has been the PSV Eindhoven star who has stepped up and provided the big moments. Tied at 3-3 with Trinidad in their final group stage fixture, it was Guardado who slammed home the go-ahead goal. The 28-year-old also converted the decisive penalty kick against Costa Rica in the 1-0 quarterfinal win, coolly slotting home late in stoppage time. If Mexico is going to stay in contention for a record-extending seventh Gold Cup title, Guardado will again have to be at his best.