Panama players (left) rush to celebrate after a win over visiting Costa Rica to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on October 10, 2017, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Israel Zapateiro)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – For Panama, the dream is now a reality.
On Tuesday night, the Canaleros earned their first-ever FIFA World Cup berth, with a 2-1 comeback victory over visiting Costa Rica to finish third in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. Roman Torres’ 88th-minute goal sent the Estadio Rommel Fernandez goal into wild celebrations.
“This seemed like a dream, like a fantasy, but I never lost hope,” said ecstatic Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez. “Things got complicated because the of U.S. game (4-0 loss), but we had that chance against a great team such as Costa Rica that – thank Gold -- was serious, honest and loyal to Fair Play.”
Four years ago, Panama came achingly close to qualifying for the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand, only to lose 3-2 to the United States on the final Hexagonal matchday for Brazil 2014.
The job was finished this time around.
“Being down in the scoreline, we gave ourselves a jolt and we were able to earn the victory,” said defender Adolfo Machado. “We knew that we couldn’t fail. Four years ago, we saw the world come crashing down on us and today we arrived with faith and conviction that we could do it.”
For veteran midfielder Gabriel Gomez, qualification is more than just a berth in next summer’s World Cup; it’s a catalyst for greater things from Panamanian football in the future.
“We hope that this is the impulse that our football needs to take off,” the 33-year-old finished. “We are very happy for this qualification.”