Colombia open Group B in style with 6-0 dismantling of Panama

February 22 – In the last late afternoon sun at the Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego Colombia wasted no time establishing their credentials for a serious Gold Cup challenge with a statement 6-0 win against Panama.

It would have been a lot more if not for VAR, the post, the bar and the impressive Yenith Bailey in Panama’s goal.

Colombia played attractive possession-based football. Slicing through Panama’s too often static back lines with neat passing, smart running and eye for goal. Dynamic on both wings the Panamanians just couldn’t contain their pace or footballing ability.

Colombia come into the tournament ranked 23rd in the world and one the favourites to challenge the old order US and Brazil power base. Ranked 23 in world they had a good World Cup in 2023, narrowly losing to eventual finalists England 2-1.

Panama ranked 55th in the world have been one of Concacaf’s improving nations but it has been a team built around a solid defence. In the Snapdragon Stadium they were picked apart mercilessly.

Colombia set the pattern of play right from the start. In the second minute Manuela Vanegas in crossed to Ilana Izquierdo who headed wide not troubling Bailey. Two minutes later another cross from the left was met by Marcela Restrepo who headed wide. From the start Colombia were able to find spaces, especially on the wings.

Panama defending with two banks of four that could drop to a back five. Up front Marta Cox was a hard working but generally lonely threat.

Bailey was soon in action make a diving to save from Manuela Pavi angling in from the left. From the corner she saved again from Vanegas at point blank range. Colombia were winning corners and building pressure but Bailey was matching her reputation as one of the world’s best keepers, saving again from Restrepo in the 15thminute.

On 17’, Maria Usme, Colombia’s leading goalscorer (39 in 73 games) had her first chance, heading down to Bailey’s left but again gathered comfortably by the diving keeper.

On 28’ Colombia broke the Panamanian resistance. Usme, who was increasingly working herself into the game, hit a ball across the box that rebounded out to Pavi on the edge of the 6 yard box to side foot in. VAR checked for offside but the goal stood.

On the half hour Colombia were almost two up when another Usme free kick was met by Restrepo who hit the post. Two minutes later they did have their second and it was Pavi again, free through the centre of Panama’s defence she slid the ball past Bailey.

Panama were crumbling and a minute were 3-0 behind. A back pass to Bailey saw her try to move the ball across her goal only for Usme to easily intercept and push into the open Panama net for her 40th international goal.

Panama briefly rallied with an attack of their own but it was shortlived. Colombia could easily have had a couple more before half time, one shot just sliding past the upright and another from distance cannoning off Bailey’s cross bar.

Panama had been outshot 17-1 in the first half with Colombia having held 75% of possession.

The Central Americans opened the second half pushing their defense higher up the field and pressuring Colombia on the ball. For a short while it worked in keeping the ball away from their goal but it didn’t take long for Colombia to find their rhythm again.

On 51’ Bailey redeemed her earlier error palming away with her left hand a shot from Usme and five minutes later again from Pavi.

Just before the hour mark Colombia looked to have a fourth. A ball across the box from the left was tapped in by Izquierdo only for VAR to rule her offside.

On 66’ Vanegas blasted over the top from 4 metres. She had her goal five minutes later and it was the best of the night.

A Colombian counter attack down the left saw Usme curl her cross into an incoming Vanegas who volleyed left foot past a despairing Bailey – 4-0.

On 85’ minutes Colombian sub Linda Caceido made it 5-0. Collecting the ball at the top of the Panama box on the left she beat two defenders before sliding the ball past Bailey.

Three minutes later it was 6-0. A ball across the 6-yard box from Rebeca Espinosa saw Liana Salazar get her foot to the ball first to poke in.

Colombia are motoring but after a result like that it is hard to see where Panama are going.

Colombian coach Angelo Marsiglia said it was “a surprising score” and that he was “proud to lead these warriors. But this is just the beginning, we have yet to win anything.”

For Panama it felt more like the end. “This was not the match we worked for,” said Panama coach Ignacio Quintana. “There is pain, they care about a loss like this, bit not everything went out the window… We have another match on Saturday, in lonely two days. It is not too much time to get so sad.”

But is it enough time to fix the problems? And, frankly, where do they start?

On Saturday Panama face Puerto Rico, the surprise qualifiers from the preliminary round. Colombia face Brazil in a South American blockbuster.

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