Getting to know Panama: Los Canaleros don’t have a lot of expectations placed upon them, and perhaps that could benefit the CONCACAF side. Panama will forever be associated with finishing ahead of the U.S. Men’s National Team in World Cup qualifying, but now that the big competition has arrived, Panama looks to build off of its qualifying success.
[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]
For more on Panama’s history, click this link.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
What group are they in? Los Canaleros reside in Group G with England, Panama and Tunisia.
Game schedule – Group G – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here
Monday, June 18: Belgium v Panama, Sochi 11 am, ET
Saturday, June 23: Panama v England, Moscow 8 am, ET
Thursday, June 28: Panama v Tunisia, Kaliningrad 2 pm, ET
Projected lineup (4-1-4-1) — Check out the 23-man squad list in full
Machado ——- Torres ——- Escobar —— Davis
Herrera —– Cooper —- Godoy—— Rodriguez
Star player: Blas Perez — The 37-year-old striker is still kicking it with Panama, and he’ll need one last bit of magic if Los Canaleros are to advance out of Group G, which isn’t being projected by many. Perez has scored 43 international goals, so the production is there, however, it remains to be seen if he can crack top defenses like Belgium and England.
Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez — He’s an interesting manager, given his track record on the international scene. Gomez has brought three different nations to the World Cup, with Colombia and Ecuador preceding his current venture with Panama. During qualifying, he certainly got the most out of his squad, who managed to finish above the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Secret weapon: Ismael Diaz — The Deportivo B player has shown a lot of promise since beginning his career with Tauro, and has risen to a top Spanish side at the age of 21. Diaz has already represented Panama at several youth international competitions, including the Under-20 World Cup in 2015, so he could be a vital presence for a side that needs all the spark it can get from its attack.
Prediction: It’s very hard to see anyone other than Belgium and England reaching the Round of 16 from Group G. Panama is solid and compact defensively, but it’s hard to imagine them being able to score enough goals to make any real noise in the competition.Follow @MattReedFutbol