With the first semifinal pairing arranged, it fell to Day Eleven to sort out which two countries would be joining the USA and Jamaica in the next stage of the Gold Cup.
The first match was an afternoon affair in East Rutherford, New Jersey that saw high-flying Trinidad and Tobago take on a struggling Panama side. The Trinidadians surprised to topped Group C, beating out Mexico by two points with an unbeaten record. Panama meanwhile drew all three of their matches, requiring a third-placed wildcard spot to move on to the quarterfinals.
But with a place in the next round at stake, the Panamanians came to life, pressing the advantage against their opponents through the opening half hour, who could only show limited indications of the team that had taken the tournament by storm.
Los Canaleros would shout for a penalty kick twice in short order around the 28th minute, first for a supposed handball when Blas Perez tried to put a fallen corner kick back into the middle – it did indeed strike off the arm of Sheldon Bateau, but was not given – and then again when Alberto Quintero's shot from the top of the area was blocked.
Quintero would test the keeper with a right-footer from range in the 34th minute, drawing a fine save out of Marvin Phillip, who dove to get a hand on the stinger.
And Panama would take a deserved lead in the 36th minute through veteran Luis Tejada after a pair of Trinidadian defenders failed to clear a simple ball into the area. Radanfah Abu Bakr tried to retain possession rather than clear the trouble, touching a ball in from Valentin Pimental towards defensive partner, Daniel Cyrus. He would whiff on his clearance, allowing the ball to fall to Tejada in the middle, who put a right-footer under the keeper.
The Soca Warriors would respond in the 54th minute, having shaken off the knockout jitters, pulling back level through Kenwyne Jones, who has been in indomitable form this tournament. A deep free-kick from the left was sent into the area by Khaleem Hyland and Jones was able to get ball-side on the nearest defender, Harold Cummings, guiding his headed-touch past Panamanian keeper, Jaime Penedo to the right-side of goal.
With extra time and spot kicks looming, Panama continued to look more likely to score. Quintero again was denied a penalty decision when he went down under pressure from Bateau; on another day, it may have been a foul, but the players would be allowed to determine the result.
Defender Roman Torres nearly sealed the victory for Panama in the 78th minute, only to send his header off a corner kick mercifully wide and a final chance in stoppage-time fell to Perez, who uncharacteristically got it all wrong, sending his open look from the left-sided Erick Davis cross wide of the far-post from the right-side of the box. Nine times out of ten, he scores those, but this match, after the obligatory half-hour of extra time, would be decided from twelve paces.
The first shootout of the tournament would see Panama miss and Trinidad score, Panama score and Trinidad saved, Panama saved and Trinidad shoot over, before the final four takers would all score, setting up sudden-death kicks.
The first two scored, but Quintero's effort was saved by Phillip, setting up a potentially-winning kick for Cyrus, who leaned back at the last second, sending his effort blazing just over the top right-corner.
Perez would score in the eighth round, so too would his counterpart Andre Boucaud. And Pimentel would set up another life or death kick for the ninth Trinidadian taker, Lester Peltier.
With the hopes of his nation on his shoulders, Peltier managed his effort on target, but hung it a little too close to Penedo, who dove to his left and got just enough of the right-footer to tip it onto the face of the bar, winning the match for the Central American side.
Panama, who drew a fourth-straight match, would move on thanks to a 5-6 shootout win, setting up a semifinal date with the winners of the later match and leaving the Caribbean side to nurse their hurt with the knowledge that they impressed mightily, reaching the quarterfinal stage for the second-straight Gold Cup. They will have gained plenty of confidence to serve them well in World Cup Qualifying.
With the stadium filling up with Mexican fans, the second match got underway.
After destroying Cuba on the opening day of Group C, Mexico could not find their rhythm, held to a scoreless draw by Guatemala and battling to an epic 4-4 draw against Trinidad and Tobago, enough for only second place in the grouping.
Costa Rica similarly were not at their best, drawing all three of their matches for second in Group B.
And it was El Tri who looked better through the opening passages.
They nearly took the lead in the opening five minutes, only for a foul to rule out a goal from Oribe Peralta. Andres Guardado would have a go from distance in the 36th minute, forcing a wonderful flying save out of Costa Rican keeper, Esteban Alvarado.
The two would exchange further looks before half-time. Celso Borges sent his shot over from a Bryan Ruiz layoff, while Peralta cut back on his defender to make space for a shot, but send it over the target.
Mexico would boss large swathes of the second half, but were forced to settle for half-chances, the best of which saw a chopper from Carlos Esquivel tipped onto the bar by Alvarado off a cross from Guardado.
Regular time would solve nothing, the match reaching ninety minutes without a goal, and extra time, despite the exhaustion creeping in, would see only sparse action. Giancarlo Gonzalez nearly touched into his own net in the 107th minute and Joel Campbell deserved a goal with a lung-busting run up the left, only for his shot to be saved by Guillermo Ochoa.
The game got nasty in the 112th minute when a horrendous tackle from Peralta caught Elias Aguilar. The initial tackle was bad, but missed, contact made by his second, scissoring follow-through, but the referee restrained himself, only showing a yellow for the trespass, much to Los Ticos annoyance.
The Costa Ricans would be even more displeased come the 122nd minute – the extra-time of extra-time - when Peralta went down under the slightest of contact from Roy Miller.
Miguel Layun flung a last-ditch ball into the area and Peralta, who had worked off the back-shoulder of Miller went up, manufacturing an awkward fall that caught the eye of the assistant referee, who flagged for a phantom foul, gifting Mexico a chance to win.
Guardado stepped to the spot and made no mistake, sending his left-footer to the keeper's right, Alvarado diving in the other direction.
Such a dismal way for a thrilling 120 minutes of football to end; CONCACAF once more becoming a verb.
With those two results on the books, the semifinals are set for Wednesday, July 22 in Atlanta, Georgia.
The USA will host Jamaica at 6 pm ET in the first match of the night, while Mexico have booked themselves a meeting against Panama at 9 pm ET.
The defending-champion Americans last met Jamaica in the Gold Cup back in the quarterfinal stage of the 2011 edition, winning 0-2 on the day – Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey the goal-scorers.
Mexico and Panama met at the same semifinal stage in the 2013 edition of the Gold Cup, the Panamanians moving on to the final with a 1-2 result. Perez and Torres were the goal-scorers for Los Canaleros, tallying either side of a Luis Montes strike.
Should be an entertaining pair of matches, enjoy!