Retro: Panama competes in first futsal tourney
 "CONCACAF Retro" -- takes a look back at a moment, game and/or event in the confederation's history.

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Panama narrowly misses berth to 2004 CONCACAF semifinals

After achieving success at the 2012 CONCACAF Futsal Championship by qualifying for its first FIFA Futsal World Cup, it was back in 2004 when Panama made its international debut in the five-a-side sport, an occurrence that would later make the Canaleros a major contender today in the region.

One of 17 teams (CONCACAF record) competing in the 2004 qualifying round, Panama began its preparations under the direction of then Brazilian coach Marcos Babau Assumpacao Carneiro and dropped its first official futsal matches against host Costa Rica in Heredia.

After losing the first encounter 12-4 on May 7, the Canaleros showed signs of improvement, falling to the CONCACAF champion the next day by a single goal (3-2).

A few weeks later, Panama staged its first home matches as it faced Canada in a two-game preliminary qualifying series at Panama City's Gimnasio Roberto Duran.

The Canadians took the first-leg on May 21 (5-4), but Panama rebounded the next day and won the second leg (7-1) behind a pair of goals from both Apolinar Galvez and Juan Murillo to capture the series 11-6 on aggregate. The victory also secured Canaleros their first trip to the CONCACAF Final Round Tournament at the Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia, Costa Rica.

"The qualifier against Canada was a very special experience for each one of the players as it was the first time we competed against a team of this level and we were able to come out victorious thanks to our coaching leadership of Babau Assumpacao," said Galvez, recently looking back at that series. "This was something that stays recorded in my mind forever and once we traveled to Costa Rica we competed with much heart, however, we were lacking experience."

Panama opened the eight-team event with an historic 2-2 draw against the United States in Group B on July 24, thanks to a pair of goals from Gilberto Rangel. The competition's first-ever futsal stalemate ended a streak of 48 consecutive CONCACAF games with a winner since 1996.

After losing to Cuba 2-0 on July 26, Panama closed out group play two days later with an 8-3 victory over Guyana. Rangel led the offense, registering the Canaleros' first hat-trick (three goals). Everardo Antonio Smith added two goals, while Moises Williams, Alquis Alvarado and Juan Murillo scored a goal each. Despite the lopsided triumph, Panama missed out on the semifinals by finishing third in the group behind group Cuba and the United States.

The Canaleros continued to demonstrate improvement four years later as they reached the CONCACAF tournament's 'final four.' They once again, however, failed to qualify for the FIFA Futsal World Cup after losing to Cuba in the semifinals and then the U.S. in the third-place match.

Galvez, currently an assistant coach with the Panamanian national futsal team, remembers: "We headed into the tournament with the mentality of performing well especially against the USA and Cuba. We did a good job, however, we needed a bit more in order to obtain the qualification berth, so at the end the important thing for us was to continue to improve and move forward."

For the Canaleros, in 2012, the third time proved to be the charm. They reached the CONCACAF Futsal Championship's semifinals in Guatemala, secured their first bronze medal and qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup (Thailand 2012).

The success continued in Thailand, as Panama became the first CONCACAF nation to win its opening match at the FIFA tournament (against Morocco) and then later progressed to the 'Round-of-16' only to lose to the eventual champion Brazil.

"With much more experience, more friendly matches, great help from our head coach (Agustin) Campuzano and the effort given by all the players influenced us to achieve our goal at the CONCACAF tournament," said Galvez, who's tied for first in most CONCACAF tournament matches played with 14. "We traveled to Thailand with the mentality to not only compete in the group stage, but also progress to the next round and thank god we achieved it with all of us happy that we obtained that objective."



GOALKEEPERS: Abraham Nelatón (Chorrillo), Jose Victoria (no club); Adolfo Anibal Benitez (Panamá Viejo)

DEFENDERS: Ameth De Leon (9 de Enero), Alvaro Lopez (Parque Lefevre), Juan Murillo (Hato Pintado), Everardo Antonio Smith (no club)

MIDFIELDERS: Alquis Alvarado (Hato Pintado), Gilberto Rangel (Hato Pintado), Moises Williams (Hato Pintado)

FORWARDS: Apolinar Galvez (Hato Pintado), Enrique Vales (Samaria).

TD: Marcos Babau Assumpcao CARNEIRO


2004 CONCACAF Futsal Championship Results
Heredia, Costa Rica

24.07: USA - Panama 2:2
26.07: Cuba - Panama 2:0
28.07: Panama - Guyana 8:3


Adan De Gracia, Federación Panameña de Fútbol - Press Officer, contributed to the content of this article.