Panama vs. Mexico: Complete Preview for World Cup Qualifer

Mikhail TurnerContributor IIIJune 6, 2013

HOUSTON - MAY 31:  Mexico National Team photo before playing Nigeria at Reliant Stadium on May 31, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying continues when Panama hosts Mexico on Friday.

This is the first meeting between these two sides in this round of the qualification process, and neither side will want drop points this early.

The tie is made all the more interesting as Panama sits second in the standings, with Mexico in first place. The Panamanians have one game in hand.

Panama reached this stage of the competition by placing second in their group, while Mexico, as expected, topped theirs.

Here is a complete preview of the match with the latest team news and projected lineups.


Panama Team News

The Panamanians have yet to qualify for a World Cup in their history, but they are in good position early on in 2014 qualifying.

Panama have a record of one win and two draws in their first three games in this final round of qualifying. They've beaten Honduras, and tied with Jamaica and Costa Rica.

This would be Panama's third home game in qualifying, and they've picked up four out of six points so far.

Panama warmed up for this matchup with a home game against South American side, Peru, losing 2-1 in the process. 

Panama Projected Lineup (4-4-2): Jaime Penedo; Carlos Rodriquez, Felipe Baloy, Roman Torres, Luis Henriquez; Armando Cooper, Anibal Godoy, Gabriel Gomez, Nelson Barahona; Luis Tejada, Blas Perez


Mexico Team News

Mexico have played four games so far in this qualifying round, tying three and picking up one win.

That win came in an away game against Jamaica on Tuesday, and El Tri will be looking for another away win against Panama.

Mexico will also want to ensure that they are firmly in first place when the tie ends. After this game, they would have already played three of their five away games.

That sets them up well for the remainder of qualifying, as the Mexican side is hard to beat at home.

Mexico Projected Lineup (4-4-2): Jesus Corona; Severo Meza, Hector Moreno, Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Salcido; Pablo Barrera, Gerardo Torrado, Jesus Zavala, Andres Guardado; Javier Hernandez, Aldo De Nigris 


Players to Watch

Panama: Blas Perez

Blas Perez has been in great form during the qualifying campaign, with nine goals to his name. With those numbers, he leads the scoring charts for the remaining participants.

The striker can bother Mexico's central defenders with his movement, and bring his teammates into play.

Mexico: Javier Hernandez

Javier Hernandez leads Mexico in scoring during this campaign, with five goals to his name.

His ability to show up in the right places to score goals will ensure that Panama's defenders are constantly worried.

The Manchester United striker wasn't able to make an impact against Jamaica, but will certainly look to bounce back against Panama.

*Unless otherwise stated, all statistics courtesy of ESPN FC and CONCACAF.