World Cup 2018 Panama team profile: How they qualified, star man, World Cup record, fixtures
Panama qualified for a first-ever World Cup with a last-gasp win against Costa Rica in October but how will they fare in Russia? Here is all the information you need to know about the debutants.
- Honours: Copa Centroamericana 2009
- FIFA Ranking: 55
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Having received byes in the first three rounds of qualification by virtue of their FIFA ranking, Hernan Gómez’s men topped a group containing Haiti and Jamaica to qualify for the last round of CONCACAF qualifying.
With 15th-ranked FIFA Mexico, United States (20), Costa Rica (25), Honduras (59), and Trinidad and Tobago (92) competing for three automatic spots at Russia 2018, the law of averages suggested Panama’s best hope appeared the fourth place and a play-off.
However, a last-gasp 2-1 win over Costa Rica in October 2017 saw the Panamanians leapfrog Honduras to take the third spot in CONCACAF qualifying, secure a place at the World Cup and the whole country an extra day’s holiday.
The big losers were USA, who failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
STAR MAN - Blas Perez (C.S.D. Municipal)
37 years young and still banging in goals. Perez is currently turning out for Club Social y Deportivo Municipal in the Liga Nacional of Guatemala.
His legs may have slowed but Perez hit two crucial goals to thrust Panama towards a first-ever World Cup, with strikes against Honduras and Costa Rica proving crucial interventions at crucial junctures.
The first helped them to a draw against a Honduran side they would usurp on the final day of qualifying, while his strike against Costa Rica set in motion their come-from-behind win on said final day.
NEXT BIG THING - Michael Amir Murillo (Red Bull New York)
The 22-year-old graduated from Liga Panamena de Futbol side’s San Francisco Futbol Club’s youth set up before moving to New York Red Bulls in late 2017, where he has since excelled operating at right-back for the MLS side. Murillo capped a fine 2017-18 season by being named in the CONCACAF Champions League Best XI, after impressing as Red Bulls made the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Guadalajara.
THE COACH - Hernan Darío Gómez
Gómez is one of four coaches to have led three different nations to a World Cup, having previously managed Colombia to the 1998 World Cup and Ecuador to Japan and South Korea 2002. He has also coached Guatemala at international level. This will be his fifth World Cup – he was assistant as Colombia qualified in 1990 and 1994.
His domestic coaching career has primarily been in his native Colombia, where he has coached Atletico Nacional, Independiente Santa Fe and Independiente Medellin.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
It is their first appearance at the World Cup. And if the reaction to said qualifications are anything to go by, expect quite the party.
- 18th June - Belgium
- 24th June - England
- 28th June -Tunisia