A victory for Mexico on Friday and they’re set for Russia 2018. However, CONCACAF rival Panama is going to stand in their way. Four years ago, Mexico defeated Panama, 2-1, thanks to a brilliant Bicycle kick by Raúl Jiménez, and the Panamanians certainly did not forget about it. Also, with that fact that the standings are starting to take shape, Panama desperately needs to walk away with points, so there will be no walk in the park for Mexico.
Lineup prediction: 4-3-3
- López, Ayala, Reyes, Gallardo
- Dueñas, Jonathan dos Santos, Guardado (C)
- Vela, Chicharito, Tecatito
We will most likely see a mix of European and North American club players against Panama, but Juan Carlos Osorio will like to try to avoid a lot of experimentation. The news that Jair Pereira and Héctor Moreno are close to guaranteed out for the match, Osorio will likely send out Ayala and Reyes in the back.
Osorio has shown a liking towards Dueñas, so I expect to see him in the midfield with Jonathan dos Santos and Andrés Guardado. Wrapping up the eleven, a grouping of Vela, Chicharito, and Tecatito should come to no surprise.
Mexico hasn’t claimed many great results in the Azteca over the past few years, but the 3-0 win over Honduras in June may be a sign that they are starting to feel comfortable at home. I expect the game to be very hard fought, especially on the side of Panama. Mexico has room to walk away with a draw, yet, a win will make the trip to Costa Rica that much more enjoyable.
This won’t be a flash game in any sense and expect some very rough fouls. In the end, Mexico walks away from this with a 1-0 victory and a ticket to Russia 2018.
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