• Panama lie third in the final Hexagonal round in the CONCACAF Zone
  • Their last two games are against USA and Costa Rica
  • Gabriel Torres: “It’s in our hands”

“I promised her that we’d make it to the World Cup, that I’d take her to Russia with my children and my mother so they could watch me play,” said Panama’s Gabriel Torres, making a vow from the bottom of his heart to his wife, when she was ill with an ovarian cyst.

So ill was she that she fell into a coma for a few months and also lost her memory. Recalling those difficult times, the 28-year-old Lausanne-Sport forward said: “She was in Panama and I was in Switzerland. They didn’t want to tell me anything, but I knew something was up and in the end they had to let me know what was happening. You have to be strong-minded, work hard and tell yourself to keep moving forward.”

Her recovery was long and slow, and it was during that painful time for the family that he made a pledge to make history with his national team and bring a smile to his wife’s face and joy to the whole country.

Torres now stands on the brink of fulfilling that pledge. Thanks in part to his goals, Panama are within touching distance of their very first appearance at the FIFA World Cup™.

“We’re delighted to be in a situation where our fate is in our own hands,” he said. “We’re third in the Hexagonal and we’ve got high hopes of qualifying directly for the World Cup. We’ve got two games to go and we’ll be treating them both like finals so we can claim that direct ticket.”

Their first major obstacle to glory is USA, whom they visit on Friday 6 October.

“It’s going to be a really tough match against USA, a real cup tie,” continued Torres. “We need to play an intelligent game. The team that makes fewer mistakes is the one that’s going to win, and we hope to be that team and to get the three points in their backyard.”

Panama’s final match comes against Costa Rica four days later: “Our main strength at home is our fans. They’re every bit as committed as we are. It’s going to be a fantastic game, but Costa Rica won’t be easy. They’re a great side with very good players and we have to make the most of being at home.”

Though Torres is determined not to get ahead of himself, he cannot help but dream of what the future might hold, especially when he has such a heartfelt promise to keep to his wife: “I’m very excited at being so close to the World Cup and at fulfilling the dreams of the whole nation. We have to be very focused in these two games so that we can get over the line. I just hope we can keep our dreams alive to the end.”

Did you know? 

  • His biggest asset on the pitch is his mobility. “I’ve got a good change of pace. I’m fast and versatile and I know how to bide my time: I can play on the wing or in the hole.”
  • Torres likes things to be done properly: “Off the pitch I want things to be just so. I like to relax, but when there’s a job on and work to be done, I like to do it right.”
  • He admits to being a little serious at times. “I’ve always got a smile for the people who love me and who are around me though.”
The happiest he’s ever felt on a pitch? “That’s going to be when we qualify with my favourite goal, the one I’m going to score to secure our qualification.”