CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo has the hopes of a nation resting upon his shoulders this week as he seeks to help Panama slay Mexico at the vaulted Estadio Azteca and reach the World Cup for the first time.
Panama currently sit in fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tied on points with Mexico, but ahead on the goals scored tiebreaker. A victory against El Tri on Oct. 11 would help Panama inch closer to locking down fourth place, which would allow them to face New Zealand in a two-leg playoff for a berth in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Penedo’s Panama have had plenty of success against Mexico over the past year with the Central Americans picking up a 2-0-1 record in all competitions against El Tri. However, this time they’ll have to do so at the Estadio Azteca where Mexico are traditionally dominant, but dropped their last home World Cup qualifier to Honduras 2-1. With Mexico coming off their first defeat in 27 competitive matches at Azteca, Penedo knows that Los Canaleros are in for a battle.
“It’s going to be a tough game. A complicated game,” Penedo told LA Galaxy Insider on Sunday. “Playing in that stadium against that team is always difficult, but we have lots of confidence that we can have a good game. That’s what we want and that’s what the entire country wants.”
Although there is speculation that his U.S. National Team teammates Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan may return before the match between their two countries on Oct. 15, don’t look for Penedo to return if Los Canaleros can’t get a result in Mexico.
“If the result in Mexico doesn’t matter, we’d still have an opportunity [to qualify for Brazil] with the last game, but that will take care of itself. Right now, I just want to concentrate on Friday,” said Penedo. “Today was an important game, we got three points that we needed and it keeps us in the fight and on the right track.”