Panama are making their debut in the World Cup this year after an impressive qualification run. They finished third in their group above United States and Honduras. They escaped having to go to the play-offs by the skin of their teeth. The only thing separating Panama in third and Honduras in fourth was goal difference.
Panama are not exactly the most exciting team to watch, for the simple fact that they just aren’t very good. They’re just happy to be here in all honesty. They often play with a 5-4-1 system and you can expect that look like a nine at the back formation in their three games. They will share a group with England, Belgium and Tunisia.
Panama Squad Outlook
Jose Calderon, Jaime Penedo, Alex Rodríguez; Azmahar Ariano, Felipe Baloy, Harold Cummings, Eric Davis, Fidel Escobar, Adolfo Machado, Michael Murillo, Luis Ovalle, Francisco Palacios, Richard Peralta, Roman Torres; Ricardo Avila, Edgar Barcenas, Ricardo Buitrago, Miguel Camargo, Adalberto Carrasquilla, Armando Cooper, Anibal Godoy, Gabriel Gomez, Jose Gonzalez, Cristian Martinez, Valentin Pimentel, Alberto Quintero, Jose Luis Rodriguez; Abdiel Arroyo, Rolando Blackburn, Ismael Diaz, Jose Fajardo, Roberto Nurse, Blas Perez, Luis Tejada, Gabriel Torres
All we have from Panama so far is an initial 35-man preliminary squad. They are to reduce this to their final 23-man squad in the near future. There aren’t really any recognisable faces in the squad, unless you’re an avid MLS fan. Most of the squad play their football in America for various MLS sides. Panama’s squad will be by far the oldest in the whole tournament as the majority of their side are deep into their thirties.
The big star of the squad is Gabriel Torres – their number nine. Torres is a quick centre-forward who knows how where the goal is. Rumour is, he attracted the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United eleven years ago.
The one to watch in this team, besides Torres, is Alberto Quintero. The pacey winger will be looking to get down the right hand side as much as possible to try and get balls into the box. He currently plays for the Peruvian side, Universitario but has played football all around Central and South America.
King of the Country
Panama don’t exactly have a rich history of football throughout the country, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you their greatest player is going to be at the World Cup this year. His name is Luis Tejada, he is 36-years-old and he plays as a striker. He is Panama’s record goalscorer with 43 goals in his 104 appearances to date. You can almost guarantee he will make it 44 when Panama play England though.
Who’s the gaffa?
The head coach of the team is Hernan Gomez. Gomez isn’t actually Panamanian, he is Colombian. He has been head coach of the Panama national side since 2014 after being forced to resign as manager of Colombia in 2011.
The reason he was forced to resign is because of an incident in a bar where he appeared to attack a woman. There was a lot of pressure from the Colombian media and the team sponsors for him to leave, eventually, Gomez bit the bullet and resigned. Since then, he has moved to Panama and made a monumental impact. He has helped them reach their first ever world cup.
Personally, I think Panama will finish last in their group. I don’t think many people would really disagree with that either. They are comfortably the worst team in the group. My prediction is fourth.
Lazy fan fact: Panama’s lowest ever FIFA World Ranking position is 151st, but they currently sit at 55th.