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  • Saturday, July 22, 2000

    Charged Panama confident

     PANAMA CITY (AP) -- Both coming off losses, Canada and Panama each face a virtual must-win situation on Sunday to maintain any realistic hopes of advancing to the final round of World Cup qualifying.

     Although it is only the second match for both, a loss for Panama Sunday (4 p.m., EDT tape delay CTV Sportsnet) would leave it with zero points and only one home match remaining.

     A loss would leave Canada with no points and heading into a third match against Mexico -- in Mexico City.

     Only the top two teams from the four-team Group C, which also includes Trinidad and Tobago, advance to the final round of qualifying.

     The last time Canada and Panama faced off was in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup.

     Canada won 3-1 in Edmonton before Panama held the North Americans to a 0-0 draw in the return leg.

     "That left us with a bad taste in our mouth and we're hoping to get our payback," said Panamanian forward Jorge Dely Valdes, who plays for U.S. Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids.

     Both teams come in having lost their opening matches of the CONCACAF semifinal round of qualifying.

     Panama played Mexico to a goalless duel in Panama City until the 86th minute last Sunday, when Miguel Zepeda saved Mexico with a goal that led to a 1-0 victory.

     In worse shape is Canada, which was beaten 2-0 at home by Trinidad.

     "We've heard very little of Panama but we're prepared for whatever comes our way," said Canadian coach Holger Osieck said. "Our mission is to win at all costs."

     Dely Valdes and his brother, Julio, are Panama's main threats, and Panama's Uruguayan manager Miguel Mansilla has announced his intentions to keep the same lineup from the Mexico match for Sunday's game.

     With both sides needing to attack, Panama's suffocating, tropical heat may prove to be more of a disadvantage for Canada, unaccustomed to that climate.

     The U.S. took an early lead against Guatemala last week before the heat and humidity of Central America appeared to takes its toll. Guatemala rallied for a 1-1 draw.



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