Panama head coach Julio Dely Valdes (pictured) and his team are confident heading into a crucial World Cup Qualifying showdown against the United States on October 15, 2013. (Photo: Mexsport)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Panama’s loss last Friday to Mexico was disappointing to both the players and coaching staff. In the days leading up to its Tuesday contest against the United States, though, optimism surrounds the team camp.
The Canaleros occupy fifth place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal table and no longer hold World Cup destiny in their own hands. The direct route to Brazil is now closed and a possible playoff against New Zealand is dependent on the results of others.
Simply put, Panama must beat the first-place United States and hope that Costa Rica overcomes Mexico.
Head coach Julio Dely Valdes’ team awaits a huge challenge against the Americans, but knows that this is not the time for backing down.
“We have noticed positivity in the players,” he said. “We have to be strong, we are taking on a strong team that will make things difficult for us.”
The 46-year-old acknowledges that Costa Rica has to complete its portion of the puzzle successfully. Regardless, if Panama does not win – and it doesn’t matter how – that everything else is irrelevant.
“It is important to win against the United States,” stated Dely Valdes. “The Ticos want to win their match, I have confidence that they will because they want to celebrate in front of their fans. On Tuesday it doesn’t matter if we play poorly, ugly or horribly, we have to win and that’s final.”
In their last meeting, the United States came away a 1-0 winner in July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final. On Tuesday, Panama will be on the familiar home soil of Estadio Rommel Fernandez, knowing that a reversal of that result still may not be enough to make a date with New Zealand.