- Panama hosts Costa Rica in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers on Thursday, September 2nd at 9:05 PM EST
- This match is the first game of the final qualifying round to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
- Get the odds, our analysis and betting prediction below
The final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying starts this week, highlighted by the match between Panama vs Costa Rica this Thursday. These two sides have a rich history, making it a great fixture for the first matchday of the final round of qualifying.
If you did not know, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will not be using the dreaded hexagonal format for CONCACAF qualifying. The new format includes eight teams and 14 games per team. The top three countries in the table at the end automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup. In addition, the fourth-placed team moves to the inter-confederation playoffs, where they are given another shot at qualifying.
These matches are ever so valuable, and the end result is pure glory. For that reason, this first round of matches, especially between Panama vs Costa Rica, is nearly unmissable.
Panama vs Costa Rica Odds
|Panama vs Costa Rica||PAN +0.5 (-210) | CRA -0.5 (+150)||PAN +185 | CRA +160 | DRAW +200||Ov 2.5 (+140) | Un 2.5 (-185)|
Odds as of Sep 1st at DraftKings
Now, how did Panama and Costa Rica reach this point in qualifying? Luckily, Costa Rica was able to slip into this round thanks to a bye given to the top five CONCACAF sides, according to the 2020 FIFA World Rankings.
On the contrary, Panama had a much more difficult task. Thomas Christiansen’s side first had to get through the first round of qualifying, topping the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Dominica and Anguilla in a five-team group. In fact, they did so with ease, winning all four games, scoring 19 goals and only conceding once.
Finally, Panama had to get past Curaçao, who won Group C, in an aggregate affair. Despite a second-leg scoreless stalemate, Panama was able to advance thanks to a 2-1 victory at the Estadio Nacional Rod Carew in Panama City.
Will Panama’s Offense Pressure Keylor Navas?
For most major leagues around the world, this is considered the first major international break. Players have spent quite a few weeks back training with their clubs and will have to quickly get acclimated to playing international sides again.
With that being said, both Panama and Costa Rica have not played competitively since this summer’s Gold Cup. Costa Rica fell out in the first knockout round to Canada while Panama failed to make it out of their group. Ultimately, this recent form is a factor to them being favored. Additionally, they will once again have the services of PSG goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, as he did not attend the Gold Cup this summer.
Keylor Navas in the Costa Rica squad for World Cup qualification after missing the Gold Cup, as is his habit.
Familiar faces at the back. No Johan Venegas or Cristian Gamboa because of injuries. https://t.co/6dnp3BmzHc
— Jon Arnold, the WCQ enjoyer (@ArnoldcommaJon) August 26, 2021
In turn, the most intriguing facet of this matchup is the Panama attack versus Navas in goal. Rolando Blackburn and Alberto Quintero are serious players and will look to challenge the 34-year-old goalie. But, it will not be any easy task. In the past two years alone, Navas has accumulated 38 clean sheets across 82 matches in all competitions.
Additionally, even without Navas in goal this summer, Costa Rica’s defense held strong, conceding four in four. As a result, expect this match to be low-scoring with a narrow margin.
Costa Rica punches their ticket to the Gold Cup quarterfinals! 🎟
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 17, 2021
Costa Rica Have not Beaten Panama Since 2017
While Costa Rica are the favorites in this match, they actually have not beat Panama since 2017, in the Gold Cup. Panama has taken their last two international friendlies, and their most recent World Cup qualifier, also in 2017.
Panama vs Costa Rica CONCACAF Gold Cup Statistics
|2.66||Goals per game||1.5|
|2.33||Goals conceded per game||1|
|14.6||Shots per game||7.5|
In that hexagonal group in 2018, Costa Rica and Panama finished neck and neck in second and third place, respectively. For Panama, that round of qualifying represented their first-ever trip to the FIFA World Cup. While CONCACAF is brutally difficult, this Panama side now knows they have the ability to qualify every time around.
¡ÚLTIMA PRÁCTICA ⚽️!
Con el grupo al completo, #PanamáMayor 🇵🇦 cumplió esta mañana su último entrenamiento y ya se reporta ✅ para enfrentar mañana a 🇨🇷 en el Estadio Rommel Fernández Gutiérrez 🔥.
— FEPAFUT (@fepafut) September 1, 2021
For Costa Rica, the FIFA World Cup has become more commonplace over the last 20 years or so. They are experienced in CONCACAF qualifying, and you have to respect them until the final whistle blows.
Panama vs Costa Rica Best Bet
Overall, the best bet for this match is the Costa Rica moneyline at +160. Costa Rica are due for a major win against Panama. Keylor Navas is back in goal for Costa Rica, and frankly, Panama will not be ready for that level of defense.
Pick: Costa Rica moneyline (+160)