FIFA World Cup 2018™: Panama’s Unlikely Qualification

FIFA World Cup 2018™: Panama’s Unlikely Qualification

Was there a more thrilling, expressive and
sheer joyous moment during 2018 World Cup qualification than this? That moment – when Panama centre back Roman
Torres scored the match winning goal in the 87th minute against Costa Rica at the Estadio
Rommel Fernández to secure his country’s first ever World Cup qualification — brings
a tear to the eye every time you watch it. Tens of thousands of Panamanians flooded the
streets of Panama City to celebrate. Such was the outpouring of love towards Los Canaleros
(the team’s nickname, fittingly, is the Canal Boys) that the country’s president Juan Carlos
Varela announced that the next day would be a national holiday, and all the schools would
be shut. “The voice of the people has been heard … tomorrow
will be a national holiday,” he Tweeted, giving his best Mayor Quimby impression. But that moment had been built on a qualification
campaign that looked, at times, doomed. The team was up against more celebrated opponents,
up against history, and up against tragedy when one of their players was murdered mid-way
through the campaign. Panama didn’t have much of a track record,
nor much luck, when it came to World Cup qualification. Los Canaleros didn’t even attempt to qualify
for a World Cup until 1976 when they tried, and failed, to reach Argentina 78. In fact,
they even missed out on qualifying for the qualifying tournament for Argentina 78, the
now defunct CONCACAF Championship, after losing four games in a row, including a 7-0 mauling
at the hands of Guatamala. The closest they came was 2014 World Cup qualification,
which ended in heartbreak. Going into the last match against the USA, again at the Estadio
Rommel Fernandez, Panama had to win and hope a stuttering Mexico team tripped up against
Costa Rica to reach the intercontinental play offs against New Zealand. With 90 minutes
gone, Panama miraculously lead 2-1 and Mexico were losing 2-1. Hold on for a few minutes
more and they had made it. But a crazy few minutes in injury time, saw
the US score twice through Graham Zusi and Aron Jóhannsson. (YouTube video with American
commentary The goals left the Panama players devastated,
including the team’s veteran goalkeeper Jaime Penedo who was in his third World Cup qualification
campaign. “We were really near to qualification,”
Penedo later said. “ It was a really hard blow to be eliminated.” Penedo thought that he wouldn’t have another
chance. But, as qualification began for Russia 2018, he decided to give it one last shot.
Panama had turned to the experienced but controversial Colombian coach Hernán Dario Gómez. El Bolillo,
or The Baton as he is known for his combative nature, had taken two national teams to World
Cup finals: his native Colombia in 1998 and Ecuador in 2002. But he was not without baggage.
In 2011, shortly after beginning his second spell in charge of the Colombia national team,
he was filmed punching a woman outside a pub in Bogata. She had, according to El Bolillo,
criticized his tactical acumen. Colombian politicians and women’s rights groups
demanded he be fired. Which the Colombian federation refused to do. But, eventually,
El Bolillo quit. “I have always been a defender of women, and I admire and respect them,”
he said announcing his resignation. “This act shames me with my mother, with my wife
and with all the women in my family and in the country.” Panama was his first national team job since
then, with Los Canaleros seeded meaning that they entered the fray in CONCACAF’s penultimate
round. Panama were drawn against three teams who all had World Cup experience. Costa Rica,
Haiti and Jamaica. Panama’s road to Russia began on 13 November 2015, with a 2-0 victory
against Jamaica in Kingston. They finished second behind Costa Rica and qualified for
the final round, the so-called Hexagonal, or Hex. They’s also started to get a taste
of scoring late goals, from all over the pitch, as they played an aggressive 442 formation.
Although their all time joint top-scorers Blas Perez continued to chip in with goals
too. Panama began the final group stage strongly,
beating Honduras and earning a creditable 0-0 draw against Mexico. But Russia looked
very far away when Panama lost 1-0 to Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain. “When Panama lost in Trinidad and Tobago
it was a difficult result because we knew the other teams were going to win on that
field,” Penedo explained. Still, the team ground out a 1-1 draw with the US were struggling
in what looked like an easy group. But then disaster struck. Panama midfielder
Amilcar “Mickey” Henriquez was shot dead as he left his home in the city of Colon in
what appeared to be a coordinated hit. Three young men were arrested and are under suspicion
but no conviction has taken place and there is still no explanation as to why he was killed.
Henriquez had played in 23 World Cup qualification matches. His final cap was a 1-1 draw with
the US. The Murder stunned Henriquez’s teammates.
“He wasn’t so much a friend as a brother to me. Losing him was very painful. I loved
him so much that I still can’t come to terms with it.,” said midfielder Armando Cooper.
The players vowed to qualify and dedicate it to Henriquez’s memory. “We’re very committed and we know he’s
watching us from up above. There could be no better tribute,” said Abdiel Arroyo. In the end, it came down to the last game.
Panama had to beat already qualified Costa Rica, and hope that the US, who were in real
danger of missing out on a first World Cup since Mexico ’86, trip up against bottom side
Trinidad and Tobago. What happened next was perhaps the wildest night in CONCACAF history
since Chuck Blazer was given carte blanc with the CONCACAF expenses gold card. Trinidad and Tobago went into a 2-0 lead before
Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic pulled one back. Meanwhile, in Panama City, Panama had equalised
through a goal that had clearly not crossed the line. “I’m gonna tell you something,” Penedo
later explained. “I’ve had to cry, literally cry with a referee’s decisions. I’ve come
out of some matches really, really sad because of a referee’s decision. I’ve always said:
‘One time it will be my turn to laugh and to jump in happiness about a wrong decision!’
And now it is.” But the best was save until last. Roman Torres,
a centre back, galloped forward and walloped the ball in to the back of the net with all
the skill of a striker. And then followed an excruciating four minutes. The USA had
lost. When the referee blew his whistle, Panama had qualified for their first World Cup finals. “I see players crying on the field,” said
Penedo. “I always thank God in every match, but I stayed quiet. Calm. I felt an internal
pressure come out. I’ve never felt that way. I took a minute to myself, felt that,
and then went to hug my mates. And then the stadium was going to burst. Everyone was hugging
each other, wearing costumes. It was crazy. Panama City partied but, most importantly,
the ghosts of that game against the USA four years previously had been exorcised, and the
memory of Amilcar Henriquez had been honoured.

100 Replies to “FIFA World Cup 2018™: Panama’s Unlikely Qualification”

  1. Most underrated football channel. Love this video very informative and clear.. Could you please the video of the rise and fall of Arsene Wenger and how it happened..

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Colombia didn’t reach the final in 1998 nor Ecuador in 2002 as stated in the video…

  3. I don't think I have ever seen or heard a nicer narration of the unlikely World Cup Qualification of Panama's national team. I didn't watch the game live that day because I didn't want to get my heart broken like I did when Panama lost 4 – 0 to the US in Orlando a few days earlier, a defeat which the best it could hope for was an intercontinental playoff spot. But yes, that day was a magical day for Panamanian soccer, and a day that will live in the hearts of many fans for years to come. Excellent job!!!

  4. Going to that stadium on that magical day would was the best experience I had in my life.

  5. But panama scored a ghost goal… I personally believe they don't deserve to be in the world cup.

  6. Fantastic video as always!! The most entertaining WC qualifiers in history. You should do a video on Peru's qualifications! We started 8th in the table and ended up qualifying out of the most difficult region to qualify (South America).

  7. ThankS For this amazing video…. cheers from Panama, I WAS in the rommel F. that night.. it was so beautifulllll!! people jumping, crying, couples crying and kissing, a group of Ticos hugged me and scream (que viva Panamá ), crazy stuff but the best feelling ever !!…

  8. Fired for punching a woman? What the fuck? Did he just left the pub and randomly punched in the face an innocent elderly lady? Doubt it. I'm just saying, what the fuck was she doing? Was she drunk swinging her purse left and right? Just asking questions here.

  9. You surely can tell a story. Congrats… you should tell Peru's qualification story too…

  10. good video can you make something for morocco qualification, Historically Morocco was the first african team to reach the 16 finals of a WC, and this is the first qualifaction since 1998 of one of the best african teams in WC, and during the qualifications Morocco was in a though group with Ivory coast ( cote d'ivoire) and was the best defense in all the qualification it didn't concede any goal, during qualification.

  11. That was beautiful, you should make a video on how Iran qualified for their first back to back world cup!!

  12. The coach Bolillo didn't simply take Ecuador and Panama to the finals – he took them to their first World Cup in history.

  13. Panama should be replace by Italy or Netherlands or Chile or USA or Wales, like who give afook bout Panama???

  14. The Panama goal may have not crossed the line but they still deserved it more than USA who couldnt defeat Trinidad

  15. As a Panamenian I have to say THANK YOU, your last image with Amilkar on it brought tears to my eyes. El eterno 21, the eternal 21, as we call him for his jersey number in the selección. Thanks again

  16. Great vid as always! Perhaps the story of Peru's dramatic qualification is next – with it being the first time that they've qualified in 36 years.
    It would make for a great video given the circumstances of how they got there and would definitely warm the hearts of all football fans alike. (Especially us Peruvians!)
    Keep up the good work and hopefully this video eventually comes into fruition.🇵🇪🇵🇪🇵🇪

  17. As a panamanian I thank you for the video. It was indeed an incredible moment for us who have dreamed about it for decades.

  18. That was a glorious day. Watching my nations federation get shaken to its knees was amazing. All the scrambling and back stabbing post elimination was an amazing site. US didn't deserve to go after the way they treated Jurgen and then hired the princess of MLS. Panama deserved to go and I'm glad it was Roman doing the favor. Dude had a fantastic calendar year. Winning shot in the shootout for MLS Cup and the goal sending his national team to Russia.

  19. The only reason there was no goal line tech is for teams like these win from bullshit calls and refs and soo easy teams could be easy wins for some teams in the World Cup panama is the worst team in the tournament

  20. As a Mexican i know panama's struggles. The game is corrupt like always, favoring the favorites but im really glad that panama made the world cup!!

  21. Thanks for this video. As a Panamanian I know that, since they are going to the World Cup for the first time, it is possible that they are going to have a situation of no victorys in the tournament. But it does not matter because life is about learning everyday and try to reach your goals, so they will learn and football in Panama is going to have a better situation overall.

  22. You do amazing job in videos. Amazing talent bros and shows how epic european football is. I love basketball as my favorite sport as an American, but wish we could have these type of videos then ridiculous meme videos.

  23. As an American, I’ll be pulling and rooting for Panama in the World Cup, Buena Suerte mis amigos en Panama👍🏻

  24. Greetings from Panama, you have done a great job with this video. Your earned a new subscriber 😀

  25. Like if your a Panamanian too the thing that's funny about is that my mom said we don't stand a chance I'll tell you how bad we lost in the morning 15 Minuets later she was screaming and her phone was buzzing like crazy and she screamed we won we won and the announcers were crying and shouting vamos por Rusia vamos por Rusia and then there was people running all down the streets and you could hear the fireworks from miles away a
    So when about amilcar henriquez he was shot on accident he was leaving a club or something like that and was shoot on accident they were trying to shot someone else during the Panamanian league games for 1 week all games were paused and had fireworks shot up at minuete 21 because that was his jersey uniform anyways hi from panama

  26. I'm a fan of Panama but i think the last game was kinda fixed in my opinion so the U.S wouldnt have any chances. Still, it'll be a very competitive group so u guys better be ready

  27. I want Panama to make it to the round of 16 so bad. I know it’s a long shot but hopefully they beat England and Tunisia at least

  28. Nicely done! thank you for capturing the essence of Panama´s struggle and redemption to reach the World Cup.
    PS: you should check for spelling errors. (Penedo, Bogota)

  29. Very proud of my country. This will be one world cup of many. People always look down on new teams but you never now when your mouth would be shut. Panama may not have a world cup experience but. You must start somewhere in my eyes they already won just by been in the place were all the best teams are . good luck to all. And Viva Panamá!

  30. Hey Tifo guys thank you for the special thought to Amilcar Henriquez, he was my favorite player ever – an unassuming defensive midfielder who was composed in and out of the pitch and had great emotional strength in victory and defeat – My kids will always hear about him and his example – Peace and much love Amilcar😢😢 😢

  31. I’m from Costa Rica and i gotta tell you, most of us celebrated Torres’ goal as if it was ours. For three good reasons
    -Panama’s Machado was Saprissa’s (biggest Costa Rican club in terms of fans and silverware) captain for a couple of years.
    -Henriquez got a proper and well deserved farewell
    -USA was eliminated. Ever since the match in Denver, which wasn’t suspended even with extremely heavy snow, there’s been very bad blood between our national sides; and having them off the World Cup in such a way feels like ultimate karma

  32. You know what guys, Tifo is just the best, that panama story was so well done.. even the Egypt one.. I hope you guys Don't stop honestly, cause i don't think there's anyone even close to doing what you're doing…. hats off to everyone involved… tell your friends about this Tifo football

  33. Thank you for doing this video about my country 🇵🇦 It was unbelievable being there, living it, flooding the streets, but it's truly heartwarming and amazing to hear this narration from someone else

  34. For a view if the actual celebration after that qualifying Panama goal goal

  35. Thank you so much for taking the time to make this video.  As a person of Panamanian heritage, I can say that seeing us score against England and then Tunisia was one of the most emotional experiences of my life.  The pride overwhelmed me.  So for you to tell this story makes me thankful beyond words.  Keep up the good work and VIVA PANAMA…

  36. Roman torres will forever remain a panamenian hero that no any panamenian can forget (even though i'm not from panama)

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