International Friendly Preview: Panama v Peru
By Football News
Panama midfielder Gabriel Gomez will become his country's joint second most-capped player if he runs out against Peru on Saturday.
The 28-year-old has represented Panama 84 times and could join former international defender Jose Anthony Torres on 85 caps, although Gomez will remain well adrift of Ricardo Phillips, who played 108 matches for Panama between 1996 and 2009.
But with Panama on track to qualify for next year's FIFA World Cup and with time on Gomez's side, the midfielder, who is on loan at Colombian club Atletico Junior from Philadelphia Union in MLS, has a big chance of overhauling Phillips' record.
Gomez, alongside star strikers Blas Perez and Luis Tejada, will be vital to Panama's hopes of victory against Peru when the two sides clash in Panama City.
Panama head coach Julio Dely Valdes will be hoping the friendly international will properly prepare his side for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers versus Mexico (June 6), the USA (June 11) and Costa Rica (June 18).
With three rounds of matches completed in CONCACAF's final section of qualifying for Brazil 2014, Panama top the standings with five points.
If Panama can stay in the top three positions they will qualify for their maiden World Cup, while the fourth-placed nation will play a two-legged play-off against New Zealand for a berth at the finals in Brazil.
By contrast, Peru are struggling as they attempt to reach their first World Cup finals since 1982.
Peru sit seventh in the South American (CONMEBOL) qualifying standings after 10 matches and have two qualifiers coming up in June; a home clash with Ecuador and a trip to Colombia.
To reach Brazil 2014, Peru must finish in the top-four of the CONMEBOL standings or take fifth and best the fourth-best Asian nation in a two-legged play-off.