The contrast in mood in the Panama and Ecuador camps prior to their Group E meeting at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 could hardly be greater. On the one hand, the Central Americans are on cloud nine after beating Burkina Faso in their opening match, while the South Americans are licking their wounds following a sobering 6-1 defeat to Germany.
Surveying the Group E line-up prior to the tournament, most people would have marked down Panama as the least likely to make the last sixteen. After all, coach Jorge Dely Valdez and his team are appearing at the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the first time. However, every opinion and preconception has had to be revised in the light of a stirring 1-0 victory over African champions Burkina Faso. A win against Ecuador, and the Panamanians would be on the brink of the Round of 16. "A dream has come true,” declared Jorman Aguilar, scorer of the winning goal against the Africans, and he and his team-mates are brimming with confidence ahead of the Ecuador clash.
The South Americans’ coaching staff will have been working overtime on rebuilding confidence in their squad following the heavy defeat to Germany. "Ecuadorian players have changed their mindset and it’s not enough now just to qualify and get through the first round. The idea is to go round by round without settling for any one aim in particular. We need to think big, and to my mind, mission accomplished would be to win the competition," Ecuador playmaker José Cevallos declared in the build-up to the 2011 finals. The meeting with Panama would be a good time for the midfielder and his team-mates to show their true colours.
1 – the 1-0 victory against Burkina Faso was Panama’s first-ever FIFA World Cup win at any level.
"It's obviously hard to recover from a 6-1 defeat like that, but we’re not out of it yet. Six of the nine points are still there for the taking. The task now is to restore our players’ motivation," Ecuador coach Javier Rodriguez
"We want to go on and win the group with two more wins. That's our target. Germany and Ecuador are both strong, but if we do what our coach tells us, we can win," Panama striker and goalscorer Jorman Aguilar