Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez (pictured) has Panama in position for a 2018 FIFA World Cup berth with two matchdays remaining in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. (Photo: AFP Services)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez was the face of calm following his team’s impressive 3-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The win over last-place T&T catapulted the host Panamanians (2W-4D-2L, 10 points) into third-place in the Hexagonal table, one point ahead of fourth and fifth-place United States (2-3-3, 9) and Honduras (2-3-3, 9).
If Panama is to claim one of the region’s three tickets to Russia, it must successfully navigate tricky encounters against the U.S. (October 6, away) and Costa Rica October 10, home).
“You have to lower the emotions a bit because the most difficult part is coming. They (U.S. and Costa Rica) are World Cup teams,” Gomez said. “We won and we put ourselves in a good position, but it’s time for the hard part and if we don’t get the results in the next matches, it’s as if we did nothing.”
The U.S. and Costa Rica will be familiar foes for Gomez.
Since the Colombian has handed the managerial reins in February 2014, Panama has played to four consecutive 1-1 draws with the U.S. in official competitions, while assembling a 0-1-2 record in three close matches against the Ticos.
While Gomez acknowledged that Panama still has much to improve, he believes it is gelling at the right time.
“[The U.S. and Costa Rica] are favorites, but we are very strong, and when we have played it has been very hard for them,” finished the 61-year-old Colombian. “Panama has a lot of work to do. It has a lot of difficulties and has much to learn, but it has a style, an order and it has progressed.”