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Panama 4, Belize 1

June 9, 1996

PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ Panama, behind two goals each from Julio Dely Valdes and Rene Mendieta, defeated Belize 4-1 Sunday and advanced to the semifinals of a regional World Cup qualifying tournament.

Panama, which won the home-and-home series 6-2, will play in a semifinal group with Canada, El Salvador and either Cuba or Haiti.

The top two teams in the group will advance to the six-team finals of the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Three CONCACAF teams will qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France.

This was the first time Panama has advanced in a World Cup elimination tournament.

Before a crowd of 15,000 and under a scorching sun in Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Dely Valdes opened the scoring in the 14th minute, beating goalkeeper Charles Slusher with a soft kick in front of the goal. He added another goal in the 46th minute from inside the penalty area.

Belize responded in the 60th minute, with Denmark Casey making it 2-1 with a sharp shot from the edge of the penalty area.

One minute later, Mendieta scored on a header off a pass from Dely Valdes. Mendieta closed the scoring in the 88th minute.

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