(Reuters) - Panama can upset Mexico for the third time this year at the Azteca Stadium next month and go on to reach their first World Cup finals, coach Julio Cesar Dely Valdes said on Monday.
Panama beat Mexico twice in the group phase and semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States in the summer, and also drew 0-0 in the home World Cup qualifier.
The teams clash again in their penultimate qualifier on October 11 in Mexico City with the home side in serious danger of failing to reach the 2014 finals in Brazil.
“If you’ve already managed it, experienced what used to look impossible, you’ve realised it isn‘t,” Dely Valdes said of Panama’s chances of beating Mexico again.
“So of course it’s possible a third time. We’re not used to seeing Mexico in this situation,” the 46-year-old told the Panamanian TV channel Telemetro (www.telemetro.com).
Mexico must win at home for the first time in the six-nation final CONCACAF group to stay in the hunt for a place in Brazil before visiting Costa Rica in their last qualifier.
“We’re not going to let this great opportunity escape us”, said Dely Valdes, one of Panama’s best players who shone as a striker for Uruguay’s Nacional and Paris St Germain.
“Our team will be determined to fight, to take something from the Azteca stadium,” added the coach, whose side then play the United States in Panama City also on October 15.
Mexico are fifth in the qualifying group with only the top three teams guaranteed a place in Brazil, with leaders the United States and Costa Rica having already secured their spots.
Honduras, who are third with 11 points, fourth-placed Panama and Mexico, both on eight, are all vying for the remaining direct berth at the finals and a place in a two-legged playoff against Oceania winners New Zealand in November.
Mexico have failed to make home advantage pay at the Azteca where they have picked up only three points from three 0-0 draws and scored only once, in a 2-1 defeat by Honduras.
As a prolific striker Dely Valdes, who took the Panama job three years ago, helped Nacional win the Uruguayan title in 1992 and lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup with PSG in 1996. He also played for Cagliari, Real Ovideo and Malaga.
Reporting by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Tony Goodson