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Panama rounds out 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup field

Jan 26, 2013, 1:33 PM EDT

Panama's Perez celebrates a goal against Guatemala during their UNCAF Central American Cup soccer match at National stadium in San Jose Reuters

There was surprisingly little drama in Friday’s fifth place match at the Copa Centroamericana in Costa Rica. Panama, in the battle of two winless (and undefeated) teams, took a 1-0 lead into half time against Guatemala, striker Blas Pérez putting the Hex qualifiers up after 28 minute.

With the final spot in this year’s Gold Cup on the line, you expected more fight from the Guatemalans, but that never happened. Early second half goals from Alcibíades Rojas and Alberto Quintero gave los Canaleros an insurmountable lead, Minor López’s late goal unable to save face for Guatemala. Panama won, 3-1.

The result left one 2011 Gold Cup qualifier out of this year’s tournament while Panama, so dangerous in the last version of CONCACAF’s championship, qualify for their fifth straight competition. They are the last team to book their place in this summer’s tournament:

Qualifiers

North American zone:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • United States

Caribbean zone:

  • Cuba
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Haiti
  • Martinique

Central American zone:

  • Costa Rica
  • Honduras
  • Belize
  • El Salvador
  • Panama

Jamaica is the only team in the final round of World Cup qualifying who failed to make this summer’s Gold Cup. Belize, Haiti, Martinique, and Trinidad and Tobago make this year’s tournament after failing to qualifying in 2011 while Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala and Jamaica fail to return.

While no schedule (or groupings) is set, the competition is scheduled to begin on July 7, with the venues for this year’s tournament announced on Wednesday.

Mexico and the United States are always favorites to make the final, but Gold Cups in the middle of World Cup qualifying tournaments can be a little less predictable. In 2009, Mexico needed penalty kicks in the semifinal to advance past Costa Rica (before defeating the U.S. 5-0 in the final). In 2005, Panama made their only final appearance before losing to the United States.

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