Mexico vs. Panama: Key Players to Watch in Semifinal Matchup

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Mexico vs. Panama: Key Players to Watch in Semifinal Matchup
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Here we go again. For the second time in the 2013 Gold Cup Mexico and Panama will collide, this time in the semifinal round. 

For Mexico, a different outcome than a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Panama in the first round would be ideal. Mexico has a long way to go in fighting back rumblings of continued World Cup qualifying struggles, and notching revenge on Panama would be the way to go. 

Conversely, Panama is one of two undefeated teams, the other being the United States. After beating Mexico for the first time in history (counting both official and friendly games), Panama is armed with the knowledge it can defeat El Tri

The two sides meet on July 24 in a matchup that will tell fans around the world much about the future of El Tri, as well as just how serious to take Panama. 

There are a few key players that will decide how the pendulum swings in the semifinals. Let's take a look. 

 

Gabriel Torres

Shocking, right? 

Torres is the man primarily responsible for where Panama finds itself at the moment. He scored two goals in the opening game of the Gold Cup against Mexico, not only enabling a historic win but propelling the team to first place in Group A. 

Overall Torres has scored five goals so far. Los Canaleros have nine in the tournament so far.

Torres, otherwise known as "El Fantasmita," at just 24 years of age, is quickly becoming an international sensation. Already one of the strongest and fastest players on the roster, Torres will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the rematch. 

 

Blas Perez

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Perez may not be receiving as much credit as Torres at this point, but the wily veteran is his main partner in crime and is what allows the Panama attack to be so deadly. 

At the age of 32, Perez is quietly having a great Gold Cup. So far he has one assist and nine shots on target and has scored once. 

Not bad once you step back and realize he is the second all-time leading scorer for the Canaleros.

Paired with Perez, the duo is the main reason Panama wound up on the top of Group A. They don't need many opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net, which they've proved more often than not already. 

Look no further than the duo's performance in a 6-1 rout over Cuba in the quarterfinals for enough proof.

 

Raul Jimenez

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Jimenez was the hero for El Tri late against Trinidad and Tobago in the quarterfinal round, but he'll need to pull off some more magic to potentially put down Panama in the semifinals. 

With Mexico struggling to find offensive production from Rafael Marquez Lugo, Jimenez has stepped up with two goals thus far. 

Despite only being 22 years of age, Jimenez may turn out to be the most important player on the pitch for the team. He blends exceptional header ability with his evasive speed to create space and move inside the box. 

For a team suddenly lacking in creativity on offense, Jimenez is going to have to come through, and potentially early for the Mexico to secure a victory. 

 

Follow me on Twitter for NFL news, analysis and more @Chris_Roling

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