Soccer Picks: Costa Rica vs. Panama World Cup Qualifier

Richard O'Hagan

Friday, June 14, 2013 8:13 PM GMT

It is 2nd against 5th in this round of CONCACAF Hexagonal matches. Just two points separate the teams as we reach midway into the final qualifying stage for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Soccer Betting: Costa Rica v Panama

Costa Rica go into this game on something of a roll after a surprisingly comfortable away draw against Mexico. With group leaders USA kicking off an hour earlier against Honduras, the Costa Ricans will not only be keen to take maximum advantage of playing one of the weaker sides in the group, they’ll know exactly what they have to do to keep pace with their rivals.

The game against Mexico was characterized by some solid defending, especially in the second half, but also by the artistry of Joel Campbell, who twice came close to scoring in the opening half hour. Close, however, won’t cut it here. That second place is on goal difference alone and so another 0-0 draw would leave them vulnerable to dropping a place or two when Mexico play again in September, especially if Honduras also hit some form. 

The Ticos cannot afford to be too much on the attack. Even though Bet 356 and others are favoring them at -162.5 betting odds (8/13). Panama might lie next to bottom, but a win would see them leap into second spot as of right. If you fancy Panama's chances for a draw, you can get more favorable odds off +260. They have never qualified for a World Cup and are desperate to do well this time around. Gabriel Gomez and Blas Perez both have experience of playing in MLS (with Philadelphia and Dallas respectively) and in giant defender Felipe Baloy they have a formidable obstacle for any side to get around.

Panama, though, are stronger at home and will need to dig deep here, because with road trips to Honduras and Mexico to come they need to start picking up points if they are not to lose touch with the group leaders. Given their lack of experience at this level they won’t relish the prospect of the two-legged play-off with New Zealand that awaits the side which finishes fourth, so a win here would be a huge boost. 

All things considered, it is hard to bet against Costa Rica on their own ground, but the greater desire might just be with the visitors and at 9/2 with Stan James you’d be on safe ground adding Panama to your soccer picks.

If you are feeling a little on the timid side, then you can hedge that in the half time/full time market. I don’t see the Panama side having the strength to hang on if they take an early lead, and in fact most away wins where the sides start out fairly evenly matched are achieved in the second half. Bet365 will give you 11/1 on Panama winning after drawing at the interval and Stan James will pay out a whopping 50/1 on them doing so after being behind at half time. Play it sensible and you can make money on both of those if Panama win.

 Looking at the correct score, BetVictor offer 19/1 on a 2-1 win for Panama, or 12/1 on a 1-0 victory. Bear in mind, though, that these two played out a 2-2 draw in Panama, so I’d be erring on the side of more goals there.