Panama’s First World Cup: What you need to know before the tournament




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This year, for the first time ever, Panama has made it to the World Cup! Now, while that may not seem like a big deal for those from bigger countries, especially those from Europe or South America, for Panama, it is a BIG DEAL. Panama will be headed to Russia to compete with 31 other teams from all around the globe, in the world’s biggest tournament, for the world’s most popular sport. For a small country, and one that (until recent years) hasn’t focused much on soccer in the past, getting this opportunity is something that doesn’t come around very often. Panama now has a chance to make history, and while doing so, ignite the passions of Panamanians everywhere, both at home and abroad.

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Why it’s such a big deal that Panama is going to the World Cup

First and foremost, Panama’s World Cup appearance is a great source of national pride. Panama seldom makes international headlines, and all too often, it does for the wrong reasons. This tournament puts Panama in a great light, and gives every Panamanian something to be proud of, and a way to show the world what the Panamanian fans and culture are really about. Another big reason this is important is because of the sheer amount of work it took to get that far. Panama’s national soccer team isn’t as well funded as many in the Americas, and soccer (for many years, at least) hasn’t really even been the number one sport in the country. Clearly, that’s changing, and even if they don’t win a game, this trip will be considered a success by the fans and culture, and that is a very big deal.

Panamanian culture prides itself on overcoming obstacles together, supporting each other, and representing their country and flag in the best way possible. The World Cup allows them to do this on a global stage, and that’s something to get excited about, even if you’re just a casual observer or expat who considers Panama their adopted home country.

What to look for in the 2018 World Cup with Panama

Panama has a very tough group going into the tournament. To say that winning will be difficult is an understatement. Their first match in the group stage is against Belgium (perennial favorites), followed by England, and then Tunisia. Look for Panama to play their prototypical tough, physical style, being aggressive on defense, and feeding the ball to stars such as Goloy, Perez, and Torres. With such a tough group of opponents, Panama will need to score early in each game, and not let the speed and agility of the opponents’ offense to overwhelm them, or these games will get out of hand fast. Due to the nature of the other teams in the group, Panama will most likely have to win at least one game and draw another to pass through. Even more realistically, they need to win two.

All of Panama’s games are available to watch on local TV, starting at 10am (Belgium), 7am (England), and 1pm (Tunisia). During these games, the city will most likely be clear of traffic, and there are many bars and local businesses who will be hosting parties. We highly recommend to watch the games with locals! Go, Panama!

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