This will go down as Panama’s first ever appearance in a World Cup competition in their sporting history and they’ll be sure to relish every second of it. In qualification, they were pitted in the unpredictable Central American CONCACAF group, finishing third ahead of Honduras, The United States of America and Trinidad and Tobago. Although they couldn’t dominate the eventual group, which is formed from three separate groups that saw them qualify alongside Costa Rica. Panama only trailed behind the surprisingly powerful Mexico and still worthwhile Costa Rica, which is more than respectable.It would be wrong to say that Panama will get anywhere in this tournament, and it being their debut attempt in the competition is only likely to make it harder for them as they become accustomed to new surroundings. They’re currently handed the joint-highest odds to win the tournament alongside Saudi Arabia, currently priced up at 2000/1, which only proves how much Panama are lacking in the sort of quality needed by all top international sides.
Panama’s World Cup Group Tips
There’s no horror stories of Panama in past World Cups but their failure to qualify in all previous attempts also means there’s no positives to thrive from either. Being put into the group they’re in won’t help their already slim chances, with Group G also consisting of England, Belgium and Tunisia. Their first game is arguably the most difficult game they’ll have to play too, taking on a massively powerful Belgium side consisting of Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Radja Nainggolan, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, to name but a few. Panama are priced at 11/1 to qualify from the group, which is the largest odds of anyone in Group G, which is unsurprising when considering the odds of England (1/8), Belgium (1/12) and Tunisia (5/1).A more likely outcome will be that Panama result in the bottom two, with finishing in fourth being what we expect from their first attempt at the World Cup. Panama are best priced to finish bottom, given odds of 8/15 with most bookmakers, then followed by Tunisia, who sit with odds of 13/8.
Panama’s World Cup Preparations
Finishing behind Mexico and Costa Rica had Panama narrowly squeezing their way to the upcoming competition, level on points with fourth place Honduras but capitalising from marginally stronger goal difference. Their last three games played present a mixed bag of results, playing all fixtures away from home but beating Grenada 5-0, losing 2-1 to Iran and drawing 1-1 with Wales. Home games are where Panama truly capitalise, going unbeaten in their last eight on home soil, winning six and drawing two. They’ll obviously not get to enjoy any sort of advantages in Russia though, as all home and away games will be outside of their beloved home nation however they approach their set of fixtures.Some sides are preparing for the upcoming tournament by persevering through some crucial exhibition matches but Panama have shied away from that opportunity. The only game they do play out between now and then is a seldom friendly match hosting Northern Ireland at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez. Whether it’s foolish or cleverly cautious is yet to be determined.
Panama’s World Cup Squad
Plenty of the World Cup squads are made up of players that are notable from the Premier League, and others that include vaguer players from Europe’s top leagues. Panama don’t fit into either of those categories and will be having to rely on older players from leagues that aren’t as highly rated as those we’re regularly accustomed to. Their standout goalscorer is thirty-six year old Blas Perez, who’s previously netted forty-three goals in 115 appearances for his home nation, and was important in scoring two in two during Panama’s short-lived stint in the last Copa America back in 2016, where they only made as far as the group stages, finishing third in a group of death with Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.Other than Blas Perez, Panama’s squad is made up of ageing, unheard-of players, with the most predominant league being the American MLS. Toronto FC’s Armando Cooper nearly has 100 caps for his home nation and is likely to be their most reliable man to guide the midfield. Captain Felipe Baloy is a crucial defender at the back and stands just one game away from reaching his 100th cap. Their second most prolific goalscorer is twenty-nine year old Gabriel Torres, who has fourteen goals in 70 appearances.
Panama’s World Cup Fixtures
Click on the fixtures below for more up to date match information, odds and betting details.
Belgium V Panama, Monday, 18th June – Sochi, 4 pm
England V Panama, Sunday, 24th June – Nizhny Novgorod, 1 pm
Panama V Tunisia, Thursday 28th June – Saransk, 7pm