Preview: Costa Rica vs. Panama – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup clash between Costa Rica and Panama, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Fresh off a fourth-place finish at the CONCACAF Nations League, Panama will open its Gold Cup campaign versus Costa Rica on Monday at DRV PNK Stadium.

The Costa Ricans lost both of their group fixtures versus Panama at that Nations League tournament, and they are winless in their last three matches in all competitions, while Los Canaleros lost their previous two internationals after winning back-to-back.

Match preview

Costa Rica's Joel Campbell in action with Japan's Ritsu Doan at the World Cup on November 27, 2022© Reuters

After a tremendous surge down the stretch of 2022 World Cup qualifying, Los Ticos are back on the continental stage, having exited at the quarter-finals of the last Gold Cup.

Costa Rica have made it beyond the group stage of this competition in each edition this century, finishing with a perfect 3-0 mark at this stage two years ago, while they have only suffered one defeat in this portion of the Gold Cup since the 2013 tournament concluded.

Luis Fernando Suarez managed to work his magic in World Cup qualifying, with Costa Rica going unbeaten in their last seven fixtures in the Octagon, however, that magic may be fading as his side have failed to score in two of their last three games.

Four players selected for this upcoming tournament have over 60 international caps, but aside from them, this is a relatively inexperienced group coming to the United States, as 16 players have fewer than 10 appearances.

Los Ticos have conceded first in every one of their encounters this year, while they are winless against Central American opponents since edging El Salvador 2-1 in March 2022.

They have not scored a goal in the opening half since defeating Nigeria 2-0 in their final preparation match before the World Cup.

Panama players celebrate scoring against Qatar on July 13, 2021© Reuters

Over the past few years, Panama have built a reputation as a strong force in the CONCACAF region, currently 58th according to the latest FIFA rankings.

La Marea Roja may have come up just short in their quest to return to the World Cup in 2022, finishing four points behind the Costa Ricans, but before their two defeats last week, this group had only lost one of its previous eight fixtures in all competitions, with five clean sheets over that stretch.

Thomas Christiansen has an experienced squad for this competition, as seven players have over 70 caps, while each of the 23 selected have made at least one senior appearance.

Their experience, cohesion and solid overall form has many believing they could be a dark horse to win this tournament for the first time, with Los Canaleros finishing as the runners-up twice this century (2013 and 2005).

They were the only team on the A side of the most recent Nations League tournament that did not concede a goal in the group phase while earning at least a point in its previous six opening group fixtures in this competition.

Panama have won five of their last seven encounters against Los Ticos, posting five clean sheets over that span while only losing one of those fixtures.

Costa Rica form (all competitions):

Panama form (all competitions):

Team News

Costa Rica's Kendall Waston celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on November 9, 2022© Reuters

The most experienced Costa Rican player picked for this tournament is Celso Borges, who leads Los Ticos in all-time appearances (158), and has also appeared in more Gold Cup games than anyone in the nation’s history (25), while Alexandre Lezcano, Warren Madrigal, Diego Campos, Josimar Alcocer and Jussef Delgado are all seeking their first caps with this team.

Borges and Joel Campbell led Costa Rica with two goals each at the 2021 Gold Cup, while Bryan Ruiz had the only goal in their last victory over Panama in a January 2022 encounter when Keylor Navas collected a clean sheet.

Borges can surpass Juan Ulloa for fifth in all-time goals for this country, Campbell is two behind them, Kendall Waston and Francisco Calvo have a combined 143 caps between them, while the promising Anthony Contreras will be playing at this tournament for the first time, having scored twice in 12 appearances for Los Ticos.

Alberto Quintero can move beyond Roman Torres for the third-most appearances at the Gold Cup should Panama make the knockout stage, as he is currently three behind him, while Luis Mejia has been a part of three semi-final runs for them at the Gold Cup.

Mejia can hit the half-century mark for caps if he features on Monday, Cesar Yanis can hit 40, as can Adalberto Carrasquilla, while Quintero and Anibal Godoy have a combined 256 caps between them.

Jose Fajardo scored the only goal for the Panamanians to defeat Costa Rica 1-0 back in March before he was sent off 10 minutes later, while Ismael Diaz and Cecilio Waterman each found the back of the net in a 2-0 win over Los Ticos in the opening match for both teams at the previous Nations League.

Costa Rica possible starting lineup:
Chamorro; Fuller, Calvo, Waston, Vargas; Madrigal, Borges, Wilson, Nunez, Mora; Campbell

Panama possible starting lineup:
Mejia; Escobar, Cummings, Miller; Barcenas, Carrasquilla, Godoy, Blackman; Fajardo, Diaz; Waterman

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We say: Costa Rica 0-1 Panama

While there should be a few familiar faces for Los Ticos, they will be fielding a relatively inexperienced squad at this tournament, and although that might benefit these youngsters down the road, we believe that a lack of cohesion will prove to be their demise on Monday.

Los Canaleros meanwhile have developed plenty of chemistry, plus their physicality and solid defensive shape should make life difficult for a Costa Rican squad without many chance creators.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

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