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Panama takes down U.S. in Gold Cup upset

International tournaments always provide an opportunity for “giant slayers” – small teams that take down big prey – to emerge, and it appears that’s exactly what’s happened with the Panama national football team.

This roster doesn’t boast anyone of international renown, and yet the team has been perfect in both of their CONCACAF Gold Cup performances thus far – taking down Guadeloupe and the mighty United States.

Panama was expected to beat Guadeloupe, but their upset over the U.S. was a shock to say the least. The Americans were heavy favorites going into the match, as they have never lost a group stage match in the Gold Cup. Yet Panama struck early with a beautiful goal from Luis Tejada in the 14th minute.

The U.S. then became their own worst enemy. Defender Tim Ream gave away a silly penalty to Panama after an errant kick struck Tejada in the box. Gabriel Gomez was able to slot the shot by superstar goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Panama retained the two-goal lead into the second half, but the Americans tried desperately to get back in the game. Clarence Goodson eventually struck for the red, white and blue in the 68th minute, and from then on Panama had some nervy moments as they tried to defend. A little luck certainly played into the victory as well – specifically on a Jozy Altidore cross to Chris Wondolowski that the American striker somehow skied over the crossbar despite being about four feet in front of a wide-open net.

Victories over a team like the U.S. don’t come very often for countries like Panama, and surely the whole country is celebrating right now and is eager for the team’s next match against Canada. No doubt many former residents will be using international wire transfers to send money back home to their loved ones to help with festivities.

Panama’s win, combined with their earlier win over Guadeloupe, means that the team could end up winning their group, something no expert would have predicted going into the tournament. If Panama beats Canada, they win the group and get a slightly easier route to the finals. Canada or the U.S. still have a chance to win based on goal differential, and most believe that the U.S. will put in quite a few against a weak Guadeloupe side.

Still, Panama is almost all but assured of going through to the next round of the Gold Cup, which is certainly reason enough for the celebrations to begin.

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