Panama ended Mexico’s hopes of reaching a third straight Women’s World Cup on Wednesday with a 2-0 victory as the United States roared into the CONCACAF qualifying semi-finals with another huge win.
Second-half goals from Karla Riley and Lineth Cedeno lifted Panama to victory in Cary, North Carolina, locking up second place in Group A behind reigning World Cup champions the United States who closed out round-robin play with a 7-0 rout of Trinidad & Tobago.
All four semi-finalists will have a chance to secure berths in next year’s World Cup in France. Both the finalists and the third place team will punch their tickets to the FIFA showpiece, while the loser of the third-place playoff will play off for a berth against Argentina.
Mexico, who competed in the last two World Cups and had beaten Panama in their five previous meetings, were thwarted by Panama’s sensational 17-year-old goalkeeper Yenith Bailey.
In the best of her several stops Bailey dived left to turn away a penalty attempt taken by Charlyn Corral after Aldrith Quintero’s handball in the area shortly before halftime.
Two minutes after the break Riley put Panama ahead when she fired a left-footed shot past Mexico keeper Cecilia Santiago.
Second-half substitute Cedeno added the insurance goal in the 85th and Panama finished group play with six points from two victories in three matches.
In the second game of the double header, Alex Morgan and Rose Lavelle both scored twice and Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn and Tobin Heath added a goal apiece as the United States capped a dominant group performance.
They scored 18 goals and didn’t surrender one in three group matches.
Group B, which includes Costa Rica, Canada, Jamaica and Cuba, concludes on Thursday with two matches in Edinburg, Texas.
Panama will play the Group B winners and the United States will take on the Group B runners-up in the semi-finals at Frisco, Texas, on Sunday.