Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez (above) and Panama will face host Mexico in an international friendly on October 12, 2014, in Queretaro. (Photo: Mexsport)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Panama’s next game may be at Mexico on Sunday in Queretaro, but head coach Hernan Dario Gomez says that his attention is fixed on the long term.
Since being named to the top post in February, the Colombian has embarked on a process of introducing youth into the squad, while maintaining competitive quality.
The approach has proved to be successful thus far. Last month, the Canaleros secured a place in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup after capturing third in the Central American Cup. That placement was an improvement from the Panamanians’ performance in the same competition two years prior, when they finished fifth.
“We are working in a very calm, deliberate manner to go to the World Cup, not to go beat Mexico,” said Gomez. “What we are interested in is that Panama plays well, that it continues improving its style. I like how Panama is. It looks to me to be a strong, orderly team.”
Panama is unbeaten in four of its last five meetings with Mexico, including a pair of wins in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The only loss over that stretch came in their last encounter, a dramatic 2-1 triumph for El Tri in a World Cup qualifier on October 11, 2013, at the Estadio Azteca. Raul Jimenez struck for a stunning 85th minute bicycle kick, breaking a 1-1 stalemate and lifting the Tricolor into fourth place in the Hexagonal. That result dropped Panama to fifth with a game to play for each.
They both lost on the last day of play, but the Mexicans were given a World Cup lifeline through a playoff with New Zealand. Panama was eliminated despite showing so much promise throughout the competition and finishing as runner-up to the United States in the Gold Cup just months earlier.
On this occasion, the stakes are not as high, but Gomez does see the match as an opportunity to improve.
“Mexico is a brave game to play, but it is what I need so that our eyes can be opened,” he noted. “They are matches that teach us. “We must win the one-on-one. That is the work of offensive and defensive order.”