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Gabriel Torres’ goal allows Panama to finish World Cup Qualifying strong

Panama player Gabriel Torres celebrates scoring the only goal of the game on March 30, 2022.

ANALYSIS – Gabriel Torres was the reason why Panama finished Concacaf World Cup Qualifying strong.

Panama was able to finish the game strong against the CanMNT. They were the better team in the first half and played well in the second half. Canada had quite a few chances in the second half but was unable to put the ball into the back of the net.

Gabriel Torres’ goal gives Panama the win

Three keys to the game

Panama’s high press and counter-attacks

Panama’s high press played a big role in Canada losing the game. This was first seen in the 11 and 12-minute play, where they pressed high to give Canada trouble. This resulted in Torres getting a header in the 16-minute of play but was unable to get a shot on target.

In the second half, Panama also utilized the high press to perfection against Canada. This resulted in a scoring chance for Rodriguez in the 63-minute. Then late in the game, Panama had the advantage in numbers but was unable to take advantage of the scoring chance.

They were able to get the game-winning goal though in the 49-minute of play.

The goal came from a counterattack. Cecilio Waterman started the play with his pass to José Rodríguez. Rodriguez then delivered a terrific cross to Gabriel Torres, who put the ball into the top corner.

CanMNT’s defence kept them in the game

The defence of the CanMNT had to be sharp. They played really well in the first half to prevent any shots on goal. Kamal Miller was a notable player in the first half. He made a few key defensive stops to keep the game tied.

Alistair Johnston and others also made it difficult for Panama to get scoring chances. Johnston made a good defensive play in the 45+3-minute of play. Lastly, in the first half, Atiba Hutchinson made his presence known and blocked Joel Waterman’s shot. There were also other plays made in the second half. Richie Laryea, for example, made a great defensive play in the 78-minute of play.

Canada had chances to tie the game in the second half

The second half opportunities were there for the CanMNT. One of the more notable chances involved Jonathan David in the 60-minute. His first shot was stopped by Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejía.

He had a big chance to tie the game with the second shot, but he was unable to react quick enough and the shot was off target. Then in the 98-minute, Buchanan had a potential chance, but could not get to the ball before the goalkeeper. There was also a cross delivered by Jonathan Osorio. It was passed by three CanMNT players, who were unable to get to the ball.

To be honest, it is very hard to tell. Unfortunately, after having a second look, it was slightly offside. However, it was a well-worked play that might have resulted in a goal on a different day.

Other factors

It felt like Canada got better when the substitutions were made. Players like Cyle Larin and Jonathan Osorio made a difference in the game in the second half, creating very good scoring chances for their team that could have resulted in a draw.

Also, Panama played well defensively. They only allowed Canada one shot and zero shots on target in the first half. One play that comes to mind was in the first half when a Panama player intercepted a Samuel Adekugbe pass in Panama’s box. Panama also made it difficult for the Canadians. They used their speed on a number of occasions to nullify Canada’s speed on the flanks.

An example was in the 36-minute when Panama’s Harold Cummings stopped Lucas Cavallini. Then in the 45-minute play, Samuel Adekugbe tried to use his speed on the flanks, but José Luis Rodríguez ended that potential scoring opportunity by winning the foot race.

Gabriel Torres scores a game-winning goal for Panama

Canada becomes only the fourth team to finish first in Concacaf World Cup qualifying since 1998. This is an achievement that should not be underestimated. Yes, it is disappointing that Canada lost to Panama. However, they accomplished something only three other Concacaf nations accomplished since the late 1990s. That was to finish at the top of the table in Concacaf World Cup qualifying.

Also, it felt like the CanMNT got better when the substitutions were made. Some players got valuable experience like Ismaël Koné and Maxime Crépeau. Also, John Herdman was gracious in defeat and gave Panama credit for the win.

The men’s FIFA World Cup draw will be televised nationally on TSN on Friday at 12:00 P.M. ET. TSN will also nationally televise the draft preshow at 11:00 AM ET. Canada will be in Pot 4 while the USMNT and Mexico are in Pot 2. If Costa Rica makes the FIFA World Cup, they will be in Pot 4 if they beat New Zealand in June. There is also the Concacaf Nations League draw set to take place on April 4.

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