SARANSK, Russia – Panama closed its first World Cup campaign in dignified fashion in a narrow 2-1 defeat to Tunisia to round out Group G action on Thursday night at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, Russia.
Jose Luis Rodriguez scored in the first half to give Panama a lead heading into halftime, but Tunisia answered with a pair of goals before fighting off a late Panama charge to claim the three points.
The Canaleros conclude their participation at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia with a 0W-0D-3L, 2GF, 11GC record.
Both teams came out flying and looking to strike early with a goal. Tunisia had the bulk of the chances but Panama GK Jaime Penedo was a strong presence between the sticks.
Panama soon found its footing and opened the scoring in the 32’ when Rodriguez’s shot deflected off the leg of Tunisia DF Yassine Meriah and into the back of the net to give the Canaleros a 1-0 lead.
Tunisia regrouped at halftime and struck back through Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, who finished off an excellent build-up by taking Wahbi Khazri’s cross and firing in a shot in the 51’ to pull Tunisia level 1-1.
The African side had the momentum and that led to its second goal of the night in the 66’, with Khazri this time playing the role of goalscorer by slotting home Oussama Haddadi’s pass to hand Tunisia a 2-1 advantage.
The final phase of the match belonged to Panama, as the CONCACAF side lurched forward in hopes of an equalizer. Veteran MF Gabriel Gomez had the best chance with a crack at goal in the final 10 minutes, but his shot sailed just wide.
In the end, a result was not meant to be for a Panama side that will depart its first ever World Cup with a treasure chest of memories and plenty of optimism for the future.