In a riveting encounter at the Estadio Agustin "Muquita" Sanchez on Saturday, host Panama booked its place at the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, posting a 4-2 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship quarterfinal victory over Trinidad & Tobago.
The result ensured that the Canaleros will meet Canada -- winners by the same score over Jamaica earlier in the day -- on Wednesday in the semifinals of the regional event.
It looked to be the Caribbean side's night, when Andre Fortune took advantage of a back-tracking Panamanian defense in the 19th minute to rocket a shot from 25-yards out into the upper right corner of the net.
The goal did nothing to diminish the speed of play, however, as both teams continued to motor up and down the field as if fatigue would not be a factor.
Panama netted a deserved equalizer 10 minutes before the break. Captain Jesus Araya latched on to a loose ball in the Trinidad box, turned a fired a shot that goalkeeper Johan Welch got his fingertips on, but could not prevent from finding the back of the net.
In the 62nd minute, the Panamanians went up 2-1 through Luis Zuñiga. The 16-year-old struck a right-footed effort from 25-yards out that slipped under Welch, who was in outstanding form up until that point.
Shortly afterwards, Welch kept the young Soca Warriors in the contest with two tremendous saves, including one off the foot of Ismael Diaz on a breakaway.
Diaz, though, would score the first of his two goals in the 79th minute. Milciades Molina dribbled down the left wing and passed to the tireless Ervin Zorrilla, sprinting into the Trinidad box. The Tauro FC product, demonstrating skill and awareness beyond his age, back-heeled the ball exquisitely to Diaz for a clinical finish.
Trinidad would not quit and made it 3-2 seven minutes later, with Weah Adams slotting home from close range after a brilliant individual effort from the fleet-footed Akeem Garcia down the left wing.
As the clock elapsed, Diaz netted his second of the goal game two minutes from time.
Panama, which finished third at 2011 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, will be making its second straight U-17 World Cup appearance. Trinidad was eliminated from contention.
VIDEO - Panama v Trinidad and Tobago Highlights
Panama 4 v T&T 2
Jesús Araya 34, Luis Zúñiga 61, Ismael Díaz 78, 87 ; Andre Fortune 19, Weah Adams 85
Trinidad & Tobago: - 1.Johan Welch, 2.Shannon Gomez (Yellow 45, Yellow 81 = Red 81), 4.Josiah Trimmingham, 5.Leland Archer, socawarriors.net, 6.Brendon Creed (capt), 7.Kishun Seecharan (Yellow 28 - 19.Weah Adams 69th), 9.Akeem Garcia, 14.Andre Fortune (Yellow 41), 15.Brent Sam (11.Jarred Dass 55th), 16.Levi Garcia (8.Aikim Andrews 48th), 17.Martieon Watson.
Unused Subs: - 10.Matthew Woo Ling, 12.Jabari Mitchell, 13.Anderson Toussaint, 18.Sterling Noreiga, 21. Stephon Seepersad.
Coach: Shawn Cooper.
Panama: - 1.Jaime De Gracia, 6.Jesus Araya, 4.Jomar Diaz (Yellow 44), 2.Jahir Marroquin, 10.Ismael Díaz, 18.Ervin Zorrilla (16.Vidal Gonzale 83rd), 11.Luis Cañate (19.Milciades Molina 78th), 7.Eliecer Dominguez, 3.Kevin Galvan, 8.Felix General (9.Luis Zuñiga 59th - Yellow 62), 14.Werner Wald.
Coach: Jorge Dely Valdés.
Venue: Estadio Agustín Muquita Sánchez, Panama.
Attendance: - 4000.
Referee: - Armando Castro (Honduras).
T&T U-17s world cup dream ends with 4-2 loss.
By Shaun Fuentes (TTFF).
Trinidad and Tobago’s quest for qualification to the 2013 FIFA Under 17 World Cup came to a solemn end on Saturday night in La Chorrera as they suffered a 4-2 defeat to host nation Panama in the quarter final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying encounter.
Playing in front of a partisan Panamanian crowd of around 6,000, T&T shocked the hosts with the ideal start in the 17th minute when midfielder Andre Fortune’s brilliant right footed shot flew past goalkeeper Jaime de Gracia and into the top right corner of the net. The goal silenced the home fans and T&T looked set to make a match out of it.
Before that, T&T also started well and almost went ahead in the third minute after the Panama defence failed to clear a low right side corner allowing Brent Sam to make contact before the ball bounced just over the crossbar.
Two minutes before Fortune’s strike, the midfielder played in a left side free kick on the near post and defender Leland Archer missed a glorious chance from the six yard, only able to direct his effort wide of the upright. Soon after Fortune would score one of the goals of the tournament, when he met a ball played on by Sam and positioned himself well just outside the box before unleashing the right footer which left De Gracia without a prayer.
But Panama kept their heads up after going behind and began to dictate the pace of the match. T&T goalkeeper Johan Welch came up big time for the junior ‘Soca Warriors” with at least four crucial saves in the first half and another series of stops in the second half to keep his team in the game.
Panama would tie the scores in the 35th minute when Jesus Araya connected with a loose ball and fired goalwards past Welch who got a faint touch on the ball. Sam also went close near the break when his low shot went through De Gracia's grasp and out for a corner.
T&T's Welch made another good stop early in the second half but was unlucky when Luis Zuniga’s 25-yard shot slipped under him and into the goal to send the Panamanian players and fans into a frenzy.
T&T were forced to chase their opponents after they got the go ahead goal and Welch again came up big on two further occasions, pulling off great stops to deny Ismael Diaz.
But the home team kept pressing and found a third goal n the 79th minute when Ervin Zorrilla back-heeled for Diaz to slot past Welch.
Sam and Kishun Seecharan struggled to get going on the evening and Akeem Garcia was kept quiet for almost all of the match, forcing the introduction of Aikim Andrews (replaced an injured Levi Garcia), Jarred Dass and Weah Adams who would eventually pull a goal back seven minutes from time. Garcia did the bulk of the work before playing inside for Adams to convert. But any hopes of a late T&T comeback were diminished when Diaz stepped up again to hit home in the 88th minute.
T&T wingback Shannon Gomez, who was outstanding throughout the qualifying campaign, was sent off in the second half for a second bookable offence.
Panama coach salutes T&T for effort
Former Panama international Jorge Dely Valdez, now head coach of the Panama Under 17 team saluted Trinidad and Tobago for their performance in Saturday’s CONCACAF U-17 World Cup qualifier which saw the home team book their place in the 2013 FIFA Under 17 World Cup in United Arab Emirates.
Speaking during the post-match conference at the Estadio Agustín Muquita Sánchez in La Chorrera. Valdez said “Panama had a very tough match tonight. I had to ask whether they understood that they were playing for a ticket to go to the World Cup and I thought Trinidad and Tobago was playing like the home team to get to the World Cup. I encouraged my team at half time.
He further went on to say: “We had to work very hard to come back into the match but Trinidad kept making it tough for us and also we could not make use of our scoring chances. I think their performance was good but we came back out stronger after the first goal and we had a very good second half .
“Tonight we are very delighted to have sealed qualification for the Under 17 World Cup with a hardfought victory . All of the teams were difficult rivals and Trinidad was no exception. We have to thank the Panama Federation for the preparation and all the warm up games that we got which turned out to be very important.
T&T head coach Shawn Cooper was notably disappointed.
“I think tonight the team that wanted it more came out on top. We had some of our key players not really coming out with their best performance and that hurt us in this match But overall we felt good about reaching to the point of one game away from qualifying and it’s something that we can take away with us and hopefully build this team for the future including the Under 20 qualifying campaign for 2015.
“I hope that we can continue with a good program to take this team into the future. For most of the players, this was probably their fifth or sixth international match and I don’t think it’s sufficient for us to be successful at this level. But we still managed to hold our own and get ourselves to this stage and this shows what could be possible if we have preparations that starts long before the tournament and with quality warm-up matches.”
This is Panama’s second successive qualification for a FIFA Under 17 World Cup and the same for Canada which defeated Jamaica 4-2 in the first quarter final match on Saturday.
T&T has appeared at two Under 17 World Cups, the first in 2001 when it was hosted in T&T and the second in 2007 in South Korea when T&T came out of the qualifying round in Jamaica.