Dely Valdes appointed Panama coach

PANAMA CITY, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Former Panama striker Julio Cesar Dely Valdes, his country's best ever player, has signed as their coach until the Concacaf Gold Cup next June.

"I'm going to start a process towards the 2014 World Cup," Dely Valdes told reporters after his appointment by the Panamanian Football Federation (Fepafut) on Tuesday.

"But the main thing now is to work to strengthen the national team so that when we play the World Cup qualifiers we have a competitive team whether I'm coach or not," the 43-year-old added.

Dely Valdes will start by preparing Panama for the seven-nation Central American Cup they will host in January. The top five teams qualify for the Gold Cup, usually played in the U.S. although next year's hosts have yet to be decided.

The other teams taking part in the Central American Cup are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.

"This is a moment I've been anxiously waiting for, I feel a great satisfaction. I'm not promising titles to anyone, nor victories, but, yes, team work," said Dely Valdes, who played for Panama between 1990 and 2005.

Panama have never qualified for a World Cup finals.

Dely Valdes's club career took him to Nacional of Uruguay, Cagliari in Italy, Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish clubs Real Oviedo and Malaga.