June 15 – Canada brushed Panama aside for a spot in the final with a 2-0 win that saw the return of Alphonso Davies.
The dream of a first major title lives strong and despite only having had a 4-day camp to prepare the Canadians improved across the game and with the arrival of Davies and his 30-minute cameo they could easily have scored more.
Canada’s goals game from their two stars. Davies announcing his arrival in free flowing style, linking with Jonathan David who was outstanding thoughout and had given Canada the lead in the first half.
Panama brought the fight but ultimately Canada had class, and a fair bit of resilience, to overcome it. It was a Canadian team that in the past might have a struggled with the physicality and intimidation.
The match started slowly, stuttering into life with Canada ahead on possession but not quite finding the cutting edge that came with the introduction of Davies later on.
Panama lined up with a back five protected by a four man midfield, giving Canada more time on the ball to find a rhythm. They would have been better served taking the game to Canada and testing their preparation.
In the sixth minute Canada should have been a goal up. A ball over the top to an on-running Kamal Miller saw him lamely scuff his shot with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Canada kept the pressure on, hitting diagonal balls that stretched the packed back five.
On 24 minutes Canada had the breakthrough they needed and, inevitably it was the prolific David who scored. Miller on the left threaded the ball through to David running from deep who slid the ball past Panama keeper Orlando Mosquera. It was a slick moment in a half of misplaced passes.
The goal immediately prompted a reaction from Panama with a five-minute period of pressure that saw Ismael Diaz hit the ball from the edge of the box for an easy save by Canada keeper and captain Milan Borjan.
The pressure was shortlived as Canada reasserted their control and could have gone in two up as they picked apart the Panama defense that had gone to a back four in a bid to chase the game.
The second half saw Panama start with intent. A header flashed past Borjan’s post, Harold Cummings shot wide and Diaz had another shot from the edge of the box saved by Borjan.
At the other end Cyle Larin headed into Mosquera outstetched arm – attacking headers down, defensive headers high.
On 61 minutes Davies arrived. Seven minutes later he had scored. David slotted the ball to Davies flying in from wide on the left who hammered the ball into the roof of the net.
Suddenly Canada came alive with everything running through an imperious Davies.
“We made substitutions on the right side to take account of Davies but it was not enough,” said Panama coach Thomas Christiansen. “Maybe we could have changed the rhythm of the game.”
Panama were down and beaten. The sending off of sub Eric Davies in the dieing minutes capped a difficult evening.
“We can’t just stay in our zone. We have to grow but it isn’t overnight, its year after year,” said Christiansen
Canada will only improve on this performance and Herdman’s insistence that it is time for a title is looking a real possibility.
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