Gold Cup: Blas Perez and Panama ready for another potential semifinal rematch vs. Mexico

DENVER — Sunday’s dull 0-0 draw for Panama against Canada did little to dissuade the growing confidence of Julio Dely Valdés and his young Panamanian squad.

After defeating group favorites Mexico last Sunday and stopping Martinique 1-0 four days later, Panama came into Sunday’s contest at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver with plenty of momentum, and the point gained against Canada on Sunday allowed the Canaleros to move on to the Gold Cup quarterfinals as Group A victors.

But Valdés wasn’t in the mood to declare his team a favorite to win the tournament despite his team’s hot start.

“We’re playing very well,” Valdés said after Sunday's scoreless draw. “I’m not thinking a lot in [making the finals], we just completed the three group games, and we’re worried about our next opponent.”

Team captain and FC Dallas forward Blas Pérez echoed his skipper’s thoughts.

“We played these three games with a lot of desire,” Perez told MLSsoccer.com postgame on Sunday. “We’ve got a lot of motivation and we’ll see what happens coming up in the quarterfinals.”

So while the upstart Panamanians might be tempering their Gold Cup expectations following their surprisingly hot start, a potentially ominous draw lies ahead, including a possible semi-final rematch with Mexico. But Pérez believes Panama can maintain their impressive group stage form and carry it through the rest of the tournament.

“Soccer is like that,” said Pérez, who didn’t play in last Sunday’s win over Mexico. “If you can do it once, you can do it twice. We’re going to have the same motivation and hope the same thing can happen again.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.