ARLINGTON, Texas -- Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said that Panama would have to play a perfect game to defeat Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals Thursday night.
The Canaleros did just that, recording a 2-1 win at Cowboys Stadium. The victory clinched a berth against the United States in Sunday's final at Soldier Field in Chicago.
"Panama has showed that they're growing and they're here to do great things," Dely Valdes said. "It was one of our [goals] to be among the best. Even away from the Gold Cup, Panama is among the greatest in this region.
"What we did was almost perfect. The team did a great job on the defensive line."
Panama defeated Mexico twice in the Gold Cup, recording 2-1 wins each time – in a July 7 opener and Wednesday’s encounter.
“We're happy,” Dely Valdes said. “We’re happy because it's not easy to win twice against a great giant like Mexico.”
Blas Perez scored in his 10th career Gold Cup goal in the victory. The achievement had multiple meanings for the forward, who plays FC Dallas in nearby Frisco.
"For me it's an honor to score a goal here in Dallas because I know there's people from FC Dallas who were here to support us," said the 32-year-old.
When the final whistle was sounded by Jamaican referee Courtney Campbell, the Panama team celebrated its big win.
Two-time defending champion Mexico, though, won’t be able to equal its competition record of three straight titles.
"Of course at times it's frustrating because we did aspire to do more and we fell short of our objectives," Mexico head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre said. "We didn't reach the level that we wanted. We wanted to be in the final. We wanted to win it. There's nothing more than to keep working hard, to lift their heads and keep going forward."