Action from the international friendly between host Mexico (white jersey) and Panama on October 13, 2015, in Toluca. (Photo: Adid Jimenez/Straffon Images)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – An opportunity to remain perfect after two games in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is all the motivation Panama needs to beat visiting Mexico on Tuesday night.
The Canaleros defeated host Honduras 1-0 on Friday, while Mexico secured a 2-1 win at the United States on a late goal by Rafael Marquez.
In the CONCACAF Hexagonal for Brazil 2014, Panama played Mexico to a scoreless draw at home, but dropped a narrow 2-1 decision on the road. The Mexicans eventually qualified for the World Cup through a playoff with New Zealand, while Panama was eliminated with only one win in 10 final-round matches.
“Mexico is a team that either playing well, average or poorly is going to go the World Cup,” Panama Hernan Dario Gomez said. “At this moment, any player that Mexico sends on is always a great player. I would say that it is the best team in the region and plays very well.”
Despite the tall task of taking down Mexico, Gomez believes that his side is ready to make a statement of intent as it pursues a first-ever World Cup berth.
“We work to win, not to draw,” stressed the Colombian. “I do not work for a result because those that play always want to win and the boys always want to win.”
An ability to stay focused for 90 minutes – something proved to be an obstacle four years ago – is among Gomez’s keys victories.
“We respect Mexico just like anyone else,” he finished. “We have to be concentrated. This has barely started. My players are keeping their feet on the ground.”