Panama under-17 national team (pictured) gathers for a team photo prior to a Torneo Internacional Las Américas match against Tigres del Sinu in Cali, Colombia. (Photo: Federación Panameña de Fútbol)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Panama will look to capitalize on the support of the home crowd, when it hosts the next CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, April 21-May 7, 2017.
The Canaleros headline Group A, along with Honduras, Curaçao and Caribbean champion Haiti.
With group-stage games scheduled to take place at the 5,500 seat Estadio Maracana in Panama City, Panama head coach Juan Carlos Cubilla is confident that his side will profit from the home fans’ encouragement.
“We will try to take best advantage of being the host nation, of having a national team that will try to give the utmost in this tournament, since in the past one, we were not able to obtain the possibility of qualifying for the World Cup,” said the 45-year-old. “I think it’s like a rematch. It is like a new chance to be able to qualify."
After hosting and finishing as runner-up to Mexico in the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship (and securing a berth to the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates), Panama failed to make it past the group stage in the 2015 edition.
With a view towards rectifying that shortcoming, Cubilla believes that his team’s upcoming opponents will pose difficulties, underlying the importance of playing at home.
“I think we have chances of finding a berth for the next phase, and to try taking full advantage of being the home side, which is a fundamental part in this tournament,” he contended.
Tactically, Panama supporters can expect a very patient and organized side that will look to take advantage of errors.
“The key of the first phase I think is to have a team that is compact on all lines, and try to minimize errors while taking advantage of our rivals’ errors,” concluded Cubilla.