Panama’s senior men’s football team arrived in Port of Spain at around 4.15 p.m. yesterday and were expected to get a feel of the Ato Boldon Stadium turf later, ahead of tomorrow’s international friendly with Trinidad and Tobago.
Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez and his team checked in at the Ritz Carlton Savannah Hotel where they will be based for their stay in Trinidad before journeying back to Panama City on Saturday for another international warm-up against Costa Rica next Tuesday.
Gomez was forced to make one change to his team with goalkeeper Luis Mejia suffering a muscle tear in training on Tuesday at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium. Mejia has been replaced by Oscar McFarlane.
The Colombian stressed on the importance of his country’s two games against T&T and Costa Rica in preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers. “These games are very important for us. We wan to do well in the Gold Cup and also be ready for the World Cup qualification,” Gomez told TTFA Media.
“I’m sure there’s other players with experience who have the capacity that allows them to believe in themselves and they continue to work with a lot of professionalism,” said the Colombian on the disappointment of narrowly missing out on 2014 World Cup qualification. “The dream is to make it to the next World Cup.”
“Panama has good players who have good experience,” the 59-year-old continued. “Now they’re even playing in the league in the United States, Europe and Mexico. When we play games against teams like Mexico, it’s always very even. We’re just a step away from doing big things.”
Those big things include reaching the World Cup. “It’s a dream,” Gomez continued. “It would change a lot of things, even the lives in Panama socially. That would be the maximum. We would change everything to go to the World Cup.”
Both Gomez and T&T head coach Stephen Hart will meet at a press conference being hosted by the TTFA at the VIP Lounge Hasely Crawford Stadium from 2:30pm on Thursday. For T&T, midfielder Khaleem Hyland and defender Justin Hoyte as well as goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams are among the more experienced players in the T&T squad that will face a full strength Panama outfit.
Hyland expects nothing less than one hundred percent from his teammates on Friday. “We’ve been working hard for the past couple days in training. Obviously the coach is looking at a few new faces because the big picture is the Gold Cup and the World Cup qualifiers. I for sure would like to make it to a Gold Cup Finals and even win it as well as to play in a World Cup,”Hyland told TTFA Media.
“But this is all part of that journey. I hope we can get things right and pull off a decent performance on Friday. The public needs to support this team now because when you look at all our opponents in CONCACAF, everybody is on board with the football team and supporting them from the early stages. Hopefully we can get the same kind of love and support from our people as well,” he added.