Costa Rica is a victory away from their 6th straight trip to the Central America Cup final. The team takes on Panama at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Cotton Bowl in sunny Dallas, Texas.
The Ticos opened the tournament Tuesday with a 3-0 thrashing of Nicaragua — in La Sele’s first match since its run to the World Cup quarterfinals.
Now Costa Rica looks to continue its dominance in the regional tournament by knocking off Panama and securing a spot in the championship match set for Sept. 13 in Los Angeles, California.
The roster only includes seven players who saw time on the pitch during the World Cup. Still, the roster — which includes Arsenal’s Joel Campbell — contains enough star power to make the Ticos clear favorites to repeat as champs of the regional tournament.
Costa Rica has seven of the 12 editions of the Central America Cup, and has only finished worse than second once. The Ticos, under new coach Paolo Wanchope, didn’t disappoint in the team’s first match since their historic performance in Brazil. World Cup participants Celso Borges and Marco Ureña scored against Nicaragua as did La Sele newcomer Johan Venegas.
Panama should be a much more formidable opponent for the 15th-ranked Ticos. Nicaragua is the worst team in the region and placed 175th in FIFA’s most recent poll. Panama actually dropped 30 spots in the August rankings, but still remain more than 100 spots ahead of Nicaragua at 63rd.
The canaleros were minutes away from qualifying for their first ever World Cup last October before the United States mercilessly eliminated Panama with two stoppage time goals.
Panama looks like one of the up-and-coming teams in Central America. But with the Ticos coming off their World Cup run, they have no excuses for stumbling against the Panamanians. Even a tie might be good enough to send Costa Rica to the championship, although Wanchope insisted his players will be pressing for another victory.
All seven countries in Central America compete in the cup, which is taking place in the United States for the first time. The top four teams secure an automatic berth to next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Costa Rica is in Group B with Nicaragua and Panama. Group A contains the remaining sides: Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador.