Mexico had their best performance of the 2023 U17 CONCACAF Championship when they crushed Panama by a 5-0 score in the semifinal of the tournament, winning their place in the final. In their second match of the tournament against Panama, they improved a lot and unlike their first which was the only match so far they didn’t win but tied, they dominated the match and got a deserved win. Mexico will now face their toughest opponent in the final as they battle the United States for the title.
The first half started with Mexico coming out with the same 11 that started against El Salvador. The game started very even with both teams trading on possession. Off of a corner kick, the cross went right past every defender and attacker before Javen Romero got a cross back into the area that Stephano Carrillo volleyed well wide. Fidel Barajas then made a good play in the area where his shot was blocked, but he got to the rebound and got off a left footed shot that went just wide. Mexico came close again when after a run by Barajas, his pass into the area found Gael Alvarez, who got off a shot from close range wide, missing a good opportunity. Surprisingly Panama subbed out Kahir Tovares for Edward Gonzalez just twenty minutes into the match. Mexico could have had a one-on-one, but Carrillo got the ball cleared just as he got to the ball. Off of a corner kick, Isaac Martinez rose to get a header that hit the post. Then Panama lost the ball badly, allowing for a counter in which Barajas made a pass to a wide open Stephano Carrillo, who placed a strong low right footed shot past Panama’s Manuel Romero for the opening goal that gave them the 1-0 lead. It was well deserved, as Mexico had been clearly superior from the start of the match. The first half ended and while Mexico hadn’t showed a great level, they were the clearly better team in the first 45 minutes.
The second half started with Panama subbing out Oldemar Castillo for Ricardo Jimenez. A good left footed shot from Jose Urias forced Romero to make a good save. After a good run, Brandon Lomeli got a good cross into the area that had Panamanian defender Martin Krug slide to volley the ball past Romero for an own goal that gave Mexico the 2-0 lead. Panama subbed out Luis Gaitan and Anel Ryce for Hector Rios and Aldair Marta. Mexico meanwhile subbed out Stephano Carrillo and Gael Alvarez for Joaquin Moxica and Yerar Azcarate. Panama needed to go for goals, which opened them up for counter attacks from the more physically fit Mexico. Romero gave up a ball to Mexico which ended with a great pass to Joe Urias, who got off a great left footed shot past Romero to score the 3-0 as it looked like Mexico had placed the game away. Romero then made another mistake that would allow Moxica to get past him but unfortunately for him, he would not be able to control the ball and when he finally did, his shot was blocked by a Panamanian defender. Panama then subbed out Martin Krug for Joshua Pierre. Mexico started to move the ball and play with Panama’s fatigue, which allowed them to completely dominate the match against the best team they have faced in the tournament so far. Mexico subbed out Jose Urias and Fidel Barajas for Alex Valencia and Jose Arroyo. It looked like Mexico was starting to think about the final of the tournament as they took out some of their best players out. Panama lost the ball again and allowed a counter in which Moxica made a great pass into the path of Brandon Lomeli, who got into the area and got off a great shot past Romero that hit the post and went in, scoring the 4-0. It was the best goal so far as Mexico now had totally killed the match and booked their ticket to the final. Mexico subbed out Javen Romero for Jonathan Flores. Off of a corner kick, Martinez then got a header that went just wide. Valencia lowered the ball and gifted a pass to Moxica, whose low shot was blocked by Romero. The play continued and finally ended when Jose Suarez got off an incredible long range goal that went past Romero and into the net to make it 5-0 in what was truly not only Mexico’s best goal of the tournament but one of the best ever in a U17 World Cup Qualifier in Mexico’s long history. It was literally the last play of the match, as it ended with Mexico getting the solid win and the ticket to the final.
Mexico has been improving as the tournament continues, and there was no clearer example of this than their Semifinal against Panama. Panama and Mexico faced each other in the Group Stages and not only did Panama tie Mexico, but at times was the better side. It was a whole different story on Friday, as Mexico was superior from the start and Panama rarely threatened them. It has to be said that Mexico had a big advantage as they not only played their Quarterfinal match on Tuesday while Panama played on Wednesday, but they also dominated the match against El Salvador and made quicker work of their opponent while Panama battled Honduras until the final minute to get the 2-1 victory. Mexico also took advantage of a lot of defensive mistakes that Panama made, ones the United States will most likely not be making. Still Mexico has improved a lot after their good opening match against Curaçao and then struggling against Guatemala and Panama. While Mexico will have a tough test on Sunday, it has been noted that their improvement in the knockout stages at least gives Mexico hope under Coach Raul Chabrand.