Panama’s Luis Tejada (red jersey) in World Cup Qualifying action against the visiting USA on March 28, 2017, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Mexsport/isiphotos.com/JohnDorton)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – With an away win over the host United States (2W-3D-3L, 9 points) on October 6, Panama (2-4-2, 10) will clinch at least a place in an intercontinental playoff for a berth in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Canaleros have a precarious hold on third place in the Hexagonal standings (the last automatic qualifying spot), leading the U.S. and Honduras (2-3-3, 9) by a single point.
Four years ago, a 3-2 loss at home to the Americans on the last day of qualifying – thanks to a pair of goals netted in second-half stoppage time – saw Panama be eliminated from Brazil 2014 contention altogether.
Forward Luis Tejada, whose 83rd-minute goal gave Panama a 2-1 lead over in that setback, believes that things will turn over different this time around.
“We know the importance of the match,” the 35-year-old said Tuesday after arriving in the country from Panama. “We are playing for our lives there. That match is important for us. God has a purpose for us. If we work with humility, we are going to achieve it.”
After playing 16 years for Panama, Tejada would like nothing better than to close the curtain on his extraordinary international career than by being part of the nation’s first-ever World Cup representative.
“How nice it would be to retire from the national team in a World Cup,” he finished. “It is something every player wants. Many good players in the world never could play in a World Cup. We are close. The United States comes next. They are almost the best in the region and we know the importance of the match.”