MIAMI, Florida – A little more than two years after their first ever appearance in a FIFA World Cup at Russia 2018, Panama begin a new cycle of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying for Qatar 2022 and with a new man in charge.
Earlier this month, Thomas Christiansen was named Head Coach of the Canaleros and will get his first crack at leading the squad in October to start WCQ in Group D against the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Dominica and Anguilla.
“I think it’s been a good draw for us, with all due respect to the teams that we are going to face, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla and Dominican Republic,” said Christiansen to Concacaf.com.
“I think at present moment the Dominican Republic is the toughest of those, but certainly all of the teams are difficult and more so when playing away when we have to take a long trip,” added Christiansen.
The Danish manager’s debut will come at home against Barbados in what he hopes is the start of a four-match winning streak.
“It’s positive for us to start this tournament at home, and against Barbados our obligation is to win every game. Always at home it’s better with our fans and we hope our fans can watch it. We still don’t know if they will be able to, but at least there isn’t a travel situation that causes us a problem and so we can prepare better for this match. But most important is closing this group at home against a strong team like the Dominican Republic,” said Christiansen.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has created many a headache for coaches around the Concacaf region and it is no different for Christiansen, who plans to implement a bubble for training purposes.
“The most important thing is to go into the first two matches in optimal condition, and we are going to prepare ourselves accordingly in a bubble so the players can focus themselves on this first objective of the first two games. Also, it’s to get to know each other better as players and coaches, that they know and understand what it means to be in a national team and the Panamanian National team, which they need to feel with pride and defend the colors to the maximum. We’re going to work also so that they understand my style of play and what I am going to demand,” said Christiansen.
While Christiansen will be able to rely on a good crop of domestic league players for the bubble, he remains hopeful that he will be able to include many of Panama’s players who ply their trade overseas leagues.
“We are going to start contacting those players that are in Europe, South America, North America. We will contact the most selectable ones first to learn more about their situation, how things are at the club level. Also, we have the possibility to directly contact their managers and the physical trainers who are there day to day with the player to get information whether it is physical, technical or tactical and mental of course. There might be different situations about players who are playing and others who aren’t, or others who haven’t even been named to a matchday roster. We have to manage this well, gain more knowledge and carry it out in the best way possible,” said Christiansen.
Out of the 30 teams in the the First Round of Concacaf WCQ, Panama are the only team that reached Russia 2018 and Christiansen hopes that the momentum built in these four matches can carry through the eight-team Final Round.
“Unfortunately we have to go through this First Round after not having done the work that we should have done before, so we have to take the first step, which means we have to do a good job, get victories when it’s our time and get through the group and then face the winner from Group C. Curacao is there, also Guatemala, two teams that are tough and that’s where we’ll play for passage to the Octagonal,” said Christiansen.
Christiansen also issued a message to the Panama fans, thanking the Panamanian people for their warm welcome and his eagerness to repay them with top-level performances from the National Team.
“I have to thank all the fans for the support since I arrived to Panama. It has all been very positive. I am thankful for all that support, but I have to transform that into work and hope. We are here to work and get results and what we all want is for Panama to qualify for all competitions, do a good job and above all, get back to pleasing the fans. That is the objective, but to do that you have to work very well and hard,” concluded Christiansen.