CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier Preview: Panama v Mexico
Mexico can take another step towards a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a win over Panama on Friday.
Aldo de Nigris' goal gave Mexico their first win in the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, a 1-0 victory over Jamaica on Tuesday that sent them top of the group. A win over Panama, who are a point back and second in the group, would complete an unbeaten opening five games of the stage for Jose Manuel de la Torre's side.
Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez is Mexico's star, and he has hit five goals so far in their qualification campaign. With two goals each, Carlos Salcido and Jesus Zavala are their next highest scorers, while de Nigris is likely to be handed another start after his strike in Kingston. The goal will have given Mexico much-needed confidence as they recorded their first win in seven matches and only victory of 2013.
Mallorca attacker Giovani dos Santos may have to settle for a place off the bench once more.
The majority of Panama's squad ply their trade in the Liga Panamena de Futbol, while the top scorer in their squad is Veracruz striker Luis Tejada (35 goals in 71 internationals). Panama have been in solid form in qualifying but were beaten in their previous outing, losing 2-1 to Peru in an international friendly on Saturday. Both sides need a win at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez Gutierrez, but expectations are higher for Mexico, who have qualified for the last five World Cups. If he gets the service and opportunities, Hernandez has the ability to be the difference against an experienced Panama defence. The 25-year-old has a fine goalscoring record for Mexico - he has 32 goals in 48 internationals - and could lead his side to victory.
Mexico have more than just Hernandez at their disposal and their win over Jamaica should hold them in good stead ahead of the trip to Panama City.