Panama’s qualification for Thailand 2012, in what will be their maiden appearance at a FIFA Futsal World Cup, is just reward for the progress made since they debuted at the CONCACAF Futsal Championship back in 2004. At that edition Los Canaleros missed out on a semi-final berth by just one point before finishing fourth at their second attempt ahead of Brazil 2008. At that time, however, there was no finals berth for the fourth-place CONCACAF side, leaving them to make amends this time around with a best-ever third-place finish.
Despite only taking up the reins in April, the team’s Cuban coach Agustin Campuzano Lopez secured Panama’s Thailand 2012 qualification with a squad he openly admits is potent in attack but in need of work in defence. This was very much in evidence during the CONCACAF Championship, when the Central American side prevailed 5-2 against a strong USA team on their Group A debut, before succumbing to hosts Guatemala by the same score. They then made sure of their place in Thailand with an 8-5 defeat of Canada in their final group game. Eventual champions Costa Rica would prove too strong in the semi-finals (4-1), although Los Canaleros would make sure of a podium finish thanks to a 6-4 win over Mexico in the match for third place.
“We showed attacking prowess [during the qualifying tournament] and also learned how much work we need to do in terms of our defensive play,” said Campuzano Lopez, who was a member of the Cuba coaching staff during the FIFA Futsal World Cups in Spain in 1996, Guatemala in 2000 and Chinese Taipei in 2004. "I have experience of World Cups, which is why we’ll be ready to face the upcoming challenge."
Facts and figures
Carlos Perez, Carlos Goodrige, Oscar Hinks, Miguel Lasso.
Qualifying in numbers
Of their five qualifying fixtures, Panama won three and lost two, scoring 22 goals and conceding 20. The team’s pivot, Miguel Lasso, was their top-scorer with nine.
22 - The number of goals Panama scored during the CONCACAF Championship, making them the tournament’s top-scoring side with an average of 4.4 goals per game.