CONCACAF: Copa surprise team Panama to face streaking Colombia in quarters

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Panama will aim to continue its storybook run in Copa America when it plays streaking Colombia on Saturday in Glendale, Ariz., with a berth in the semifinals on the line.

That the Panamanians are still alive after finishing second in Group C behind Uruguay, but ahead of the United States, is not lost on Panama coach Thomas Christiansen.

Panama opened with a 3-1 loss to Uruguay before upsetting the Americans 2-1 and clinching a berth with a 3-1 victory over Bolivia, which featured Jose Fajardo’s second goal of the tournament. As impressive as those results were, Panama will be a heavy underdog against Colombia.

“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” Christiansen said. “If they (Colombia) want to look down on us, that’s their thing. But we are going to take this match very seriously.”

Panama, which is playing in its second Copa America, reached the knockout round for the first time.

“I don’t need to tell (his players) anything,” Christiansen said Friday. “They know that they have made history. But we don’t want to stop there. We want to try and go a step further, and hopefully we can do that.”

The winner plays either Uruguay or Brazil on Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.

Panama has proven skeptics wrong, but defeating Colombia would defy the odds.

The Colombians are unbeaten in 26 matches, although a 1-1 tie with Brazil on Tuesday ended a 10-match winning streak.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, and on Saturday we have to come out and play very focused,” Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez said. “We are going step by step. Panama will be difficult, but we will play with a lot of quality.”

Colombia coach Nestor Lorenzo said his team must not overlook Panama after an emotional match vs. Brazil.

“There’s a sense of satisfaction after playing such a strong opponent,” Lorenzo said. “Now we need to think about Panama.”

Colombia will play its sixth consecutive Copa America quarterfinal. The past four went to penalties, with Colombia winning in 2016 and 2021. They lost in 2015 and 2019.

–Field Level Media

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