Mexico could have Giovani dos Santos available in their quest for a berth in the Gold Cup final and revenge for their 2013 semifinal defeat against Panama. The nine-time Concacaf champions have yet to hit top gear in this year’s competition and required a hugely controversial penalty award in the dying seconds of extra time to defeat Costa Rica in the quarterfinals. But, having missed out on that encounter through injury, Dos Santos could now feature at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old, whose transfer to the LA Galaxy was confirmed on July 15, had to be taken off at halftime in Mexico’s eventful 4-4 draw with Trinidad and Tobago at the end of the group phase with a left abductor muscle injury. But coach Miguel Herrera confirmed that he may be in contention against Panama.
“Giovani is fine,” he said in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday, reports the Mexican Federation’s website. “Tonight we will see [in training]. If he tells me he’s 100 per and feeling confident, we’ll think about using him.
In Dos Santos’ absence, Mexico failed to convert what was an improved second-half performance against Costa Rica into goals as both Carlos Vela and Oribe Peralta missed inviting chances. Instead, it was left to captain Andrés Guardado to convert a dramatic penalty and avoid the need for a shootout. Guardado has been one of the very few El Tri players to live up to their reputations at the Gold Cup so far, with the team and Herrera coming under intense pressure. After failure in 2013, Mexico need to win the Gold Cup in order to earn a playoff with holders the United States for the right to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
Panama were beaten in the final by the U.S. two years ago, but are once again in the hunt for a first ever Gold Cup title. And, while Mexico will be keen to avenge suffering a 2-1 defeat in the 2013 semifinal, Panama will have its own extra motivation in Wednesday’s matchup. It was later that year that Panama looked set to secure a playoff with New Zealand for the chance to go to their first ever World Cup, only for a late collapse against the U.S. to allow Mexico to sneak in in their place.
At this Gold Cup, Panama has battled their way through to the last four. All three of their group matches -- against Haiti, Honduras and the United States -- ended in 1-1 draws, and it was the same result after 120 minutes in the quarterfinals against Trinidad and Tobago. It then took an extended penalty shootout for Panama to secure progress, winning 6-5 thanks to a decisive save from their LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
Panama have several injury doubts ahead of the semifinal, with coach Hernán Darío Gómez yet to reveal whether key striker Blas Pérez, and midfielders Aníbal Godoy and Gabriel Gómez would be available. Meanwhile, Mexico will definitely be without center-back Yasser Corona, who picked up a knee injury against Costa Rica. Corona is likely to be replaced by Chivas’ Oswaldo Alanís.
Kickoff time: 9 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 2, UniMás, Univision Deportes
Live stream: Fox Soccer 2Go