Panama World Cup squad: The first timers are placed in a tough group

Panama Football Team. (Tweet: @fepafut)
Panama World Cup squad will play its first Fifa World Cup this summer in Russia after the team's impressive finish in CONCACAF to finish ahead of teams like the United States and Honduras. Panama qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Coach

Hernan Gomez has been in charge since 2014 and had to resign his position as Colombia coach in 2011 after assaulting a woman outside a bar in Bogota. Gomez has worked well since taking over the national team in 2014 

Squad Depth 

Panama will have the oldest squad at the World Cup and will be physical with a defensive approach in their formation. A decent chunk of the squad come from the MLS.

The core of the team consists of goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, defender Felipe Baloy, midfielder Gabriel Gomez and strikers Blas Perez, Armando Cooper and Luis Tejada.

Blas Perez is the joint top-scorer in the national team's history with 43 goals. The former Liga MX and MLS man is 37 years old and had a good season with Municipal of Guatemala, scoring 13 goals.

Striker Gabriel Torres, who made his international debut aged 16, has pace and once attracted the likes of Manchester United.
Of their eight defenders heading to Russia, five play Stateside including New York RB's Fidel Escobar and Michael Murillo, San Jose's Harold Cummings, Adolfo Machado from Houston Dynamo and Roman Torres of Seattle Sounders.

Midfielder Amilcar Henriquez was killed in a robbery in April 2017, who was 33 years old and with 84 caps. Henriquez was an important player in coach Gomez’s system.

Road to Fifa World Cup 2018

Fidel Escobar scores a goal and earns a surprise victory in Honduras at the start of the fifth round in November 2016. After a good draw with Mexico, the team begins to lose form by March. Followed by a defeat in Trinidad & Tobago and a draw at home to the USA sees Panama lose the advantage over the rest of the group that they had acquired in the opening games.

A 3-0 victory against Honduras breaks a six-game winless streak that had taken them from third to fifth place in the group in Sep 2016. But a month later, a 4-0 loss in the US means they have to win their final game against Costa Rica and hope Honduras and the Americans lose.

A controversial goal by Blas Perez and another by Roman Torres in the dying minutes gives Panama a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica in November 2016.
Fifa World Cup Group: Panama are placed in Group G with England, Belgium and Tunisia in their group. It will be dificult for them to get our of the group with England and Belgium having the better side. 

Panama 23-man final squad:

Goalkeepers: Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucharest), Jose Calderon (Chorrillo FC), Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco FC).

Defenders: Michael Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes), Fidel Escobar (New York Red Bulls), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders FC), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Eric Davis (DAC Dunajska Streda), Luis Ovalle (CD Olimpia), Felipe Baloy (CSD Municipal).

Midfielders: Gabriel Gomez (Atletico Bucaramanga), Edgar Barcenas (Cafetaleros de Tapachula), Armando Cooper (Club Universidad de Chile), Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador), Alberto Quintero (Universitario Lima), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Jose Luis Rodriguez (KAA Gent).

Forwards: Blas Perez (CSD Municipal), Gabriel Torres (CD Huachipato), Ismael Diaz (Deportivo La Coruña), Abdiel Arroyo (LD Alajuelense), Luis Tejada (Sport Boys).