Mexico can mathematically seal a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a victory when they play host to Panama at the Estadio Azteca on Friday.
When the two teams clashed 10 months ago, both teams drew 0-0 at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
While it is hard not to admit that the vibe surrounding the Mexico national team isn’t exactly the best, El Tri’s dream of participating in a seventh straight World Cup is potentially just a win away. Mexico sit atop of the CONCACAF Hexagonal with 14 points and have not lost a single World Cup qualifier since Juan Carlos Osorio’s arrival to the national team bench.
With only three teams assured of a spot at the World Cup in Russia next summer, for Panama this game could be one of their biggest yet. Of course, Panama have never reached a World Cup in their history, and they have treated this as something of a “Clasico” on the lead-up to this match. Currently, the Canaleros are fourth in the table with seven points.
One factor to look out for is the weather. Mexico City has been pummeled with rain in the last few hours, and the Estadio Azteca isn’t expected to be in the best of shapes. Panama, who play a conservative style of play, could see themselves favored by having a playing field that is half flooded.
This game will not just be a physical battle on the field, but also a mental one. For Panama, Mexico represents something of the antagonist within CONCACAF. As Houston Dynamo’s Adolfo Machado put it, Panama think Mexico are the last Coca-Cola in the desert, which roughly translates to feeling superior to everybody else. While those comments will, no doubt, be in the Mexican players’ minds, for them the key mental battle will be in convincing fans and media that Juan Carlos Osorio’s process still holds some weight. It is about ridding him of the pressures that have inundated Mexico in the last few months and allow him to work how he likes.
Date: Friday, September 1
Time: 6:30 PM Pacific, 7:30 PM Central, 9:30 PM Eastern
Venue: Estadio Azteca Mexico City, Mexico
Television: Univision Deportes Network (US-Spanish), Univision (US-Spanish), Fox Sports 2 (US) UnivisionTDN (Mexico), Azteca 7 (Mexico), Canal 5 Televisa (Mexico), TDN (Mexico), TDN (Panama), RPC Canal 4 (Panama)
Listings via LiveSoccerTV.com.