After years of steady progress in the CONCACAF zone, Panama, CONCACAF Gold Cup runners-up in 2005, came crashing down to earth with a surprisingly early exit from qualifying for South Africa 2010.
Receiving an automatic bye to the second stage of qualifying, the Panamanians - ranked fifth in the region at the start of qualifying - were unfortunate to run into a resurgent El Salvador. In the first leg of their home-away series, the red-clad Central Americans won 1-0 at home, but they lost out 3-1in the return leg at the Cuscatlan to bring an end to their campaign.
The loss, a blow to the steadily improving Central Americans, also meant the end of the road for coach Alexandre Guimaraes, who was sacked shortly afterwards.
After the retirement of the iconic Dely Valdes twins (Jorge and Julio) it seems Panama are having trouble finding new leadership, and the new-look side will all have to wait until the qualifiers for Brazil 2014 to show that they are heading in the right direction.