Panama pushes for FIFA U-20 World Cup place

Panama (red jersey) is a perfect 4-0-0 at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. (Photo: Mexsport)

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – One of the signs of a good team is that it finds a way to win even when playing below par.

On Sunday, Panama defeated Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0, improving to 4-0-0 in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.  Though that result kept the Canaleros atop the Group A table, head coach Leonardo Pipino was pleased with the performance.

“We didn’t win the match the way we wanted to win,” said Pipino.  “We wanted to win the way we played against Jamaica, the way we played against the USA, even the way we played against Aruba.  Unfortunately, things didn’t happen the way I wanted.  It’s not the players fault, it’s our (the coaching staff’s) fault.”

Being disappointed with a victory shows how much Panamanian football has grown.  This is only the Canaleros’ ninth appearance in the 52-year history of the competition.  Yet, they find themselves with a perfect record and have not conceded a goal.

“We look at the glass half full and half empty.  The full part is that we’re winning, we have 12 points.  The empty part is that we played very bad today and we have to improve.”

Panama, though, will be tested on Wednesday in its group finale against unbeaten Guatemala (3-1-0, 7 points).  It only needs to avoid defeat against the Chapines to clinch a place in the final and earn a ticket to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Pipino is fully cognizant of what’s stake and promises a better display at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.

“The coming match is going to be very difficult,” he said.  “Guatemala is a team that knows how to stay back, strong five in the back, four, then one.  But I think we can pull it off and will have a good squad for that match.

“We’ll play to win, we’ll go for the three points.  We’re going to play our attacking football as we have the whole tournament and, hopefully, we’ll come away with the win and will be happy.”