Panama Achieves a Superb Victory and Advances to the Quarterfinals of the Copa America

Panama beat Bolivia
Panama beat Bolivia (Credit: Getty Images)

Jose Fajardo scored for the second consecutive match, while Eduardo Guerrero and Cesar Yanis came off the bench to score late in the game and Panama qualified for the quarterfinals of the Copa America with a 3-1 victory over Bolivia on Monday, a result that led to the elimination of the host country, the United States.

Panama sealed its victory several minutes before the end of the match against the United States, which was forced to score two goals in stoppage time against Uruguay. But the Celeste stood firm to preserve a 1-0 victory with which it rounded off a perfect campaign in Group C.

Also Read: Venezuela Beat Jamaica and Qualifies First in the Group for the Quarterfinals

“We knew it was going to be difficult, but thanks to the work and effort of my teammates we were able to win,” said Guerrero, who scored for the first time with the national team.

Panama will join Canada as the CONCACAF team that will be in the knockout phase of the Copa America. Mexico and the United States, the two great powers of the confederation, were eliminated after the first round.

Panama’s next destination will be the Arizona desert to face the top team in Group D, which will be decided on Tuesday in the duel between Colombia and Brazil.

“None. They are a pain in the ass,” replied Thomas Christiansen, the Spanish-Danish coach of Panama when asked if he had a particular preference for the quarterfinals. “What we have to do is go out and enjoy ourselves.”

“Nobody was counting on us, we are there on our own merits and the most important thing is to be physically fit for that match because we know how demanding it is to play against Brazil or Colombia,” he added.

Panama began the tournament with a 3-1 loss to Uruguay, but bounced back with a 2-1 win over the United States, capitalizing on the early expulsion of American striker Tim Weah. Three of the four goals in Panama-Bolivia were scored by substitutes.

Fajardo, who scored the decisive goal in the win over the United States, opened the scoring in the 22nd minute.

But Bruno Miranda scored in the 68th minute, seven minutes after coming onto the pitch, to make it 1-1 for Bolivia. It was the first goal for the Verde in the tournament. With a provisional result that sent them home, Panama was not daunted.

Guerrero headed the ball in the 79th minute to make it 2-1. He had come on five minutes earlier. The third in Panama was one to remember.

Yanis had been on the field for just over half a minute when he controlled Guerrero’s pass into the area with his left foot, changed his foot, and took the ball with his right foot to seal the result in the first minute of added time.

“Football is a daily suffering,” said Christiansen. “We knew that we weren’t guaranteed a win in the next round. After the 1-0 we got into a slump, I think at times we had too much momentum to push forward and press… but the reaction was very good from the boys, we overcame that adversity.”

Panama managed to qualify despite the absence due to the suspension of its best player, midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla.

This is Panama’s second participation in the world’s oldest national team tournament and they have improved on their performance from 2016, when they were eliminated in the first round.

“Now we have to think about the next match,” said Guerrero, a forward for the Ukrainian club Zorya Luhansk. “Obviously we know that we are facing strong opponents, but the sacrifice is good and I think we are prepared for what is coming.”

Bolivia has not won a match in the world’s oldest international tournament since a 3-2 win over Ecuador in the 2015 edition in Chile. They have come away with a clean slate in the 2016, 2019, 2021 and 2024 tournaments.

Referee Edina Alves made history in Orlando, Florida. The 44-year-old Brazilian became the first woman to referee a Copa America match.

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