Panama’s pedigree at the FIFA U-17 World Cup goes back just two years to Mexico 2011, when they made their debut at the competition. Once on Mexican soil, a solitary win over Burkina Faso was enough to send Los Canaleros into the knockout stages among the best third-placed teams. And though they fell at the next hurdle, beaten 2-0 by the hosts and eventual winners in the Round of 16, Panama exited the tournament with their heads held high.
Keeping Jorge Dely Valdes at the helm has certainly worked for Los Panameños, with the former senior international once again guiding his charges successfully through regional qualifying. Hosts of April’s CONCACAF U-17 Championship, Panama won their group thanks to a 2-0 win over Barbados and a 1-1 draw with Jamaica. After clinching their UAE 2013 berth via a 4-2 quarter-final success against Trinidad and Tobago, the home nation sank Canada 2-1 to reach the final – where they went down 2-1 against Mexico.
Having made their competition bow two years ago, Panama are viewing UAE 2013 as an ideal opportunity to continue improving on the world stage. “Let’s hope we can organise some big friendlies against high-level sides, so that this group of players can get their football going and prove they can handle a World Cup,” said Dely Valdes. “We’ll be seeking to prepare in the best way possible, so that we’re in top condition to tackle the tournament.”