Panama players (pictured) train at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, on October 10, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Federación Panameña de Fútbol)
BRIDGEVIEW, Illinois – It will be a CONCACAF Hexagonal preview on Tuesday, when Panama and Mexico meet in an international friendly at Toyota Park.
The sides advanced to final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in two different ways.
Mexico sealed progression after winning its opening four Group A games en route to an unbeaten 5W-1D-0L record. It was slightly more difficult for Panama, which finished second in Group B with a 3-1-2 mark that included a pair of losses to table-topping Costa Rica.
Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez views the encounter as a way of showing his squad to the world.
“Mexico has a secured spot in the world,” said the 60-year-old Colombian. “It is a great team and who doesn’t want to play against Mexico? Games like this against Mexico are seen all over the world and gives an opportunity for Panama and its players to be seen.
"This match against Mexico is so important for us like that of a qualifier. [At this point] there are no friendly matches.”
Panama and Mexico will square off again on November 15 in Panama City during Hexagonal’s second matchday. Due to the closeness in time of both matches, Gomez wants to use the initial opportunity to its fullest.
"This game will help us to see new players who are capable of being in the qualifier,” he commented. “Beating Mexico will always be important...tomorrow, in the qualifier, always".
What does Gomez expect from Panama as it pursues a first-ever World Cup berth?
"I have six qualifiers and I can tell that I have a strong, powerful, solid and worked team,” finished the former Colombia manager. “I hope God will give us the opportunity to do a good job. I always prepare my team to win and I want to win."
Since beating Mexico twice in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Panama has lost four straight one-goal games to the Tricolor.