Panama Just Happy To Be at the World Cup

Jun 07, 2018 5:37 PM EDT

The Odds

  • To win the World Cup: +150000
  • To win Group G: +4500
  • To advance to Round of 16: +900

Bet To Watch

Panama vs. Belgium Under 2.5 +113

Panama are terrible. It would be tempting to look at Group G in this World Cup where Panama drew England, Belgium and Tunisia and find it reminiscent of four years ago when Costa Rica was drawn with England, Italy and Uruguay. Costa Rica were thought to be D.O.A. but managed to come out of the group and reach the quarterfinals while favorites England and Italy went home. But Panama are no Costa Rica. They don’t have the defensive discipline to pull of the kind of smash-and-grab results that their Central American counterparts did.

This team simply can’t score. In the 10 games of the final round of qualifying from CONCACAF, they scored a grand total of nine goals, and only one of those was away from home. That was two more goals than tiny Trinidad and Tobago and four fewer than anybody else. Only two Panamanian players scored more than a single goal in those 10 games, striker Gabriel Torres and defender Roman Torres. It’s a motley crew.

What they did have, and what carried them to a -1 goal differential and a third-place finish in the group was a stout defense that conceded only 10 times. They’re nasty. They will kick, scrap and claw their way through matches, and try to wear opponents down. Expect them to try the same thing at the World Cup. Even if they concede, they likely won’t try to open up, they can’t. They simply don’t have enough attacking talent to justify the risk. They remain better off hoping to get through with one or two attackers while staying permanently in damage-control mode.

In the opener against Belgium, even though they’re likely to concede, and lose the game, they probably won’t go chasing a better result. Belgium will probably beat them handily, but Panama’s going to do everything they can to keep it at one or two goals. It’s really all they can do.


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