Inspired Panama earns third place at Gold Cup
PANAMA 1 (3), U.S. 1 (2)
Backup goalkeeper Luis Mejia saved two penalty kicks in the shootout, and an inspired Panama team ended a trying week with a medal after it defeated the United States in the CONCACAF Gold Cup third-place game Saturday in Chester, Pa.
Panama won the shootout, 3-2, after extra time ended with the score 1-1. Mejia saved DaMarcus Beasley’s shot in the fifth round in what might have been the veteran defender’s last game for the national team.
Panama was on the verge of beating Mexico in Wednesday’s semifinals despite being down to 10 men but was called for a disputed hand ball in the area. Mexico converted the penalty kick in stoppage time, then scored on another penalty kick in extra time for the 2-1 win.
The Panamanian federation’s president later alleged the match was fixed, and players were seen arriving at PPL Park wearing Tshirts that read, “Dignity isn’t bought.”
It was another shaky performance by the Americans. They had their worst Gold Cup finish since losing to Colombia during a shoot-out in the 2000 quarterfinals.
Roberto Nurse scored for Panama in the 55th minute. Clint Dempsey evened the game in the 70th with his tournament-high seventh goal. U.S. learns path to Russia
The U.S. men’s national team was placed in Group C with Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF semifinal round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Group pairings for 141 teams were announced in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Americans’ other two Group C opponents will come from a pair of playoffs: St. Vincent and the Grenadines against Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda against Guatemala.
The U.S.-led quartet will begin play Nov. 7. Each team will play one another home and away for a total of six matches a piece, culminating in September 2016. Two of the four teams will advance to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Three of the six CONCACAF finalists will earn automatic berths to the World Cup in Russia. A fourth will enter a twogame playoff against Asia’s fifthplace finisher in November 2017.
Regardless of the preliminary draw results, Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s crew would have been expected to advance to CONCACAF’s final round. But it received an easier path than the other heavyweights by avoiding Honduras and Panama in the semifinal stage.
— Steven Goff
Elsewhere at the draw ceremony, 2010 world champion Spain was paired with 2006 winner Italy, and another European qualifying group will feature soccer’s oldest international rivalry, England against Scotland. In likely the toughest group, the Netherlands was placed with France and Sweden. Sepp Blatter, the outgoing FIFA president, appeared at a major public event for the first time since American and Swiss criminal investigations of corruption in the sport were unsealed two months ago. He was joined on stage by Valdimir Putin and said to the Russian leader, “Thank you, President Putin. You make us happy and comfortable.”
— Associated Press
Graham Zusi gets past Panama’s Erick Davis. The U.S. had its worst Gold Cup showing since 2000.