Panama (pictured) trains in Davenport, Florida, on October 2, 2017. (Photo courtesy of the Federación Panameña de Fútbol)
ORLANDO, Florida – Strong defensive play away from home has been a standout feature of Panama’s qualifying campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In their seven WCQ road outings, the Canaleros have conceded just five goals, three of which came against Costa Rica in a 3-1 loss on the last matchday in the fourth round, when both teams had already qualified for the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
Those statistics – and the performances that produced them – are boosting third-place Panama (2W-4D-2L, 10 points) ahead of Friday’s massive final-round clash at the fourth-place United States (2-3-3, 9). The Central American side can book its ticket to Russia with a win over the Americans, plus a Honduras loss at Costa Rica.
“We have to be focused, with zero errors, and for everyone on the field to be together and well compact,” said midfielder Anibal Godoy. “[We are going] to try to do what we have been doing when we play away.”
With expectations high, Panama realizes what’s at stake as it targets a first-ever World Cup qualification.
“We know that we can make history,” midfielder Edgar Yoel Barcenas commented. “We talk a lot among ourselves and that’s how we see it. We can do things well and reach a first World Cup, which is what we all want.
“We are focused and motivated. Here, in the United States, is the chance, but we cannot go out hurried. We have to be intelligent and read the match situation.”
Panama has conceded one goal or fewer in seven of its last eight Hexagonal outings.