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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 12:39 PM EDT

Panama Men's Soccer Team Will Face Portugal Today

Sports SectionBy DON WINNER for - The Panamanian men's soccer team is in Portugal today, where they will play a "friendly" game as part of their preparations, working toward earning a spot in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Both Panama and Portugal were seeking a quality opponent to improve their respective teams experience and skills. The game will be on television today in Panama this afternoon at 3:00 pm local time.

Panama is currently participating in the third round of qualifying within the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) - the continental governing body for association football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Panama leads Group C with six points. They beat Honduras on the road and Cuba at home. Panama's next qualification game is on 7 September 2012 against Canada, and the game will be played in Toronto. Canada is currently in second place in Group C with four points, earned by beating Cuba on the road, but they only managed to tie Honduras at home.

After the game against Canada in Toronto on 7 September, Panama will quickly turn around and play Canada again, this time at home at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium in Panama City, on 11 September 2012. Panama's last two games of this six-game set will be against Honduras in Panama City on 12 October, then the last game against Cuba in Havana on 16 October.

The key for Panama are these upcoming games against Canada. With six points in the bank already, Panama is in the driver's seat in Group C. If they can manage four points (one win and one tie) in the two games against Canada, that would pretty much ensure they will pass to the next round. In this third round, two teams will advance and two will be eliminated.

The CONCACAF has a total of 35 teams. Of those, 23 have already been eliminated and 12 continue to compete. There are three or four spots for CONCACAF teams at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the fourth round, the top three qualifying teams will advance. Then whoever qualifies in the fourth position will have to play two games (home and away) against the top qualifying team from the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) is one of the six continental confederations of international association football, consisting of Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and island nations such as Tonga, Fiji and other Pacific Island countries.

The twelve CONCACAF teams still competing in the Third Round of qualifying are: United States, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guyana, Panama, Canada, Guatemala, Antigua and Barbuda.

Today's "friendly" game is one more tune-up, to keep legs fresh and minds sharp, against an excellent European opponent. At this point Panama's goal is to qualify for a spot to participate in the 2014 FIFA World Cup - something they've never done before. There's a feeling on the team that "this is their time."

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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