Action from the World Cup qualifier between host Panama (red jersey) and Mexico on November 15, 2016, in Panama City. (Photo: Luis Licona/Straffon Images)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – After a scoreless draw against visiting Mexico on Tuesday, Panama (1W-1D-0L, 4 points) is unbeaten after two matches to open the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
A 1-0 win at Honduras on November 11 opened a campaign that head coach Hernan Dario Gomez hopes will end with Panama’s first-ever World Cup appearance. The Mexico stalemate was a confidence booster.
“In the first half, Panama had clarity,” Gomez commented. “In such a close match, with an opponent of so many jewels and with a coach like Juan Carlos Osorio, Panama generated three of four scoring chances. Mexico, none. It was a more balanced team; neither defensive nor offensive.”
As the clock elapsed, Panama remained compact, seemingly content to secure the point.
Gomez explained why, saying: “Here, since we play in a block there was no fatigue. Due to the roster we had, we dispossessed them of the ball and went after them with speed. When there were five minutes left and Mexico had the ball, I told them not to counter because when the block was stretched out I was worried.”
The Colombian was grateful for the support of the 26,500 fans at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez and the role they played keeping Panama energized.
“We in the locker room are very happy for the class of the team that we have,” concluded Gomez. “We are happy because the fans pushed us almost the entire match. We were very fatigued, but that fatigue, that tiredness and the fans, that is how you get to World Cups. The manner in which they sang the anthem, that is what we value.”