Panama manager Hernán Darío Gómez reacted furiously to criticism of his side’s performances at this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. Los Canaleros lost their final Group G match 2-1 to Tunisia on Thursday, leaving them without a point and with the tournament’s worst goal difference of minus nine.
Nevertheless, when a journalist in the news conference after the Tunisia clash claimed that Panama were the worst side in the tournament, Gómez gave a defiant response. Quoted by Reuters, the Colombian said: “That is a complete lack of respect. You shouldn’t call us the worst team. We are the youngest team with most difficulties.”
Gómez went on to mention some of these difficulties: “How many pitches do we have? What kind of infrastructure do we have? Look at the history of the other countries here. You should respect our team more.”
On the subject of the Tunisia match, Gómez sounded pleased that his side had given a good account of themselves after two humbling losses against Belgium (0-3) and especially England (1-6). “We were much more level in this match than in others,” he said.
Quoted by the BBC, Gómez praised the standard of Panama’s opponents in Group G: “We had two, actually three, very difficult teams with a lot of experience at this level,” he claimed.
Seeing as England are fielding an inexperienced squad, this claim isn’t strictly accurate. Nevertheless, as footballing nations, England and Belgium – and, to a lesser extent, Tunisia – do have vastly more World Cup experience than Panama.
There was some hope that Panama’s first ever appearance at a World Cup might raise football’s profile in a baseball-loving country. Obviously, three successive defeats for Los Canaleros won’t help their cause.
Nevertheless, Gómez still struck an optimistic note: “Hopefully Panama will return to a World Cup and not be the worst,” he remarked.