Jimenez experience key for Panama U20s
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PUEBLA, Mexico -- Jairo Jimenez already knows what it feels like to play in an Under-20 World Cup, and the experience at Colombia 2011 only increased his thirst for victory.

Two years ago, when Panama participated in the World Cup, the midfielder was one of the smaller players on the team, but his obvious quality made coach Alfredo Poyatos select him for the tournament. Today, despite the goal-scoring exploits of Amet Ramirez, he's a key element in the system for current head coach Javier Wanchope.

Quick, skillful, precise with his service and with a developed sense for the goal, Jimenez makes a difference for the Canaleros. He showed that much in the 4-0 win over Jamaica on match day 2 of Group C, by scoring one goal and assisting on two others.

At Colombia 2011, he appeared in just one game (45 minutes against Austria), which makes his desire to be in Turkey 2013 even greater. His team is just one game away from that achievement, needing to beat El Salvador on Wednesday at the Estadio Cuauhtemoc to achieve their goal.

"What we want is to get to the World Cup. We'll knock off whatever rival we need to," said Jimenez, who is a member of Chorrillo FC. "I played one game in the World Cup, but I want a lot more."

That much was demonstrated during the group phase of the 2013 CONCACF Under-20 Championship. Out of all competitors in Puebla, Panama advanced to the quarterfinals with the best numbers, beating Puerto Rico and Jamaica by identical 4-0 score lines, and sending the confidence of the Panamanians into orbit.

"The work has been accomplished just as the coach ordered it," said Jimenez. "Games are won with just one goal, but we were able to score eight and we give thanks to God."

For these U-20s, Jimenez has formed an interesting partnership with fellow attacker Jose Antonio Muñoz. Those two are the responsible for generating offense, a job they've done to perfection.

The duo's experience has been a key to getting Panama to within 90 minutes of qualifying for a second straight Under-20 World Cup.

In exercising their dominance over their Caribbean rivals, the Canaleros based part of their game plan on the ability of Jimenez to shake free, especially out wide. Whenever Jamaica pressured Panama on Saturday, his teammates looked to feed Jimenez and sprint into open space for the return service. On Wednesday, he'll have the same mission: to look for space, look for others and try to score goals, just as he did against the Reggae Boyz.

Jimenez has played an Under-20 World Cup, but he wants to do it again. He wants to be a factor in the match against El Salvador, qualify for Turkey 2013, and confirm Panama's place as one of the best in CONCACAF.