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FIFA World Cup 2018 team profile: Panama hope for a bright debut

Debutants Panama had a roller-coaster ride during their qualifying campaign of FIFA World Cup 2018

football Updated: Jun 12, 2018 17:15 IST
Ankit Kumar Singh
Ankit Kumar Singh
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Panama players warm up before taking part in a training session in Saransk ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Panama players warm up before taking part in a training session in Saransk ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2018.(AFP)

Head Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez

World Cup History: Debut

Qualifying route: Sealed the World Cup berth by finishing third in CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Hexagonal qualifying.

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Squad: Goalkeepers: Jaime Penedo, Jose Calderon, Alex Rodriguez; Defenders: Michael Murillo, Harold Cummings, Fidel Escobar, Roman Torres, Adolfo Machado, Eric Davis, Luis Ovalle, Felipe Baloy; Midfielders: Gabriel Gomez, Edgar Barcenas, Armando Cooper, Valentin Pimentel, Alberto Quintero, Anibal Godoy, Jose Luis Rodriguez; Forwards: Blas Perez, Gabriel Torres, Ismael Diaz, Abdiel Arroyo, Luis Tejada.

For a tiny country that has an estimated population of only 4 millions, making it to World Cup finals for the first time is a remarkable achievement. It also serves as a perfect last hurrah for the country’s best-ever generation of players with goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, full-back Felipe Baloy and star striker Blas Perez all being at the wrong side of 35.

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Panama had a roller-coaster ride during their qualifying campaign where they registered a dramatic 2-1 win over neighbouring Costa Rica to finish third on the final match day of CONCACAF qualifying.

Though progressing beyond the group stage appears nearly impossible in Russia, Los Canaleros would look to make an impression at the international stage and also pay tribute to their regular midfielder Amilcar Henriquez who was shot dead outside his home last year.

Three players to watch out for:

Jaime Penedo: Penedo, a 36-year-old goalkeeper, is one of the four Europe-based players in Panama’s team. He has enjoyed success with Osasuna and LA Galaxy in the past and currently plays with Romanian club Dinamo Bucharest. With 15 years of international experience, he has represented his country in 130 matches. Panama would look for an inspirational performance from the veteran before the net.

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Blas Perez: Another veteran, Perez, who tasted success in MLS (Major League Soccer) with FC Dallas, is the team’s most potent striker. His ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play makes him an invaluable asset for the side. Though he is 37, he still oozes youthful energy and can inspire others around him.

Roman Torres: Torres whose 87th minute strike against Costa Rica in the final match of qualifying round sealed the World Cup spot for Panama is one of the most popular footballers in the country. The 32-year-old dreadlocked defender, who also happens to be the captain of the side, holds a key for Panama’s chances in Russia.