After putting in an eye-catching display for Panama against Costa Rica in the team’s opening match of Round 4 of North, Central America and Caribbean Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, Marcos Sanchez is determined to keep the momentum going. The gifted 22-year-old midfielder, who played the full 90 minutes of February’s 2-2 home draw with Los Ticos, already has his sights set on his country’s next encounter – away to Jamaica on 22 March.
What's more, plenty has changed for Sanchez since his last outing in the Hexagonal, with his performance in that game winning over the powers-that-be at MLS outfit DC United, who announced his signing last week.
“Things are really going great for me at the moment,” said the Canalero starlet, speaking exclusively to FIFA.com. “This is the kind of opportunity I’ve been waiting years for and now I’ve been able to seize it. That said, I’m very aware that in football it’s not just about getting there, it’s about staying there, which is what I intend to do.”
And though it was his display against Costa Rica at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez that truly propelled him into the CONCACAF limelight, he has been working towards a breakthrough for some time.
“I started out with [Panamanian club] Tauro,” explained Sanchez. “At first I just used to play as a sub, but after a while I earned a starting spot and a call-up to the U-21 national squad followed. I played several matches for them, then I moved up into the U-23 set-up, who I played for in Olympic qualifying, and finally I broke into the senior squad.
“I felt really at ease out on the pitch [against Costa Rica]. I felt good because my team-mates gave me lots of support and we could produce a good performance,” continued Sanchez, when quizzed on the aforementioned meeting with Los Ticos, before revealing the post-match message he got from Panama boss Julio Cesar Dely Valdes. “He told me he was really pleased with me and congratulated me on doing a good job. I’m grateful to him for his faith in me and support.”
Yet in spite of the individual positives Sanchez took from the game, the fact remains that Los Canaleros let slip a two-goal lead, thus failing to kick off the Hexagonal with a vital three points.
“We were pretty disappointed. We really thought we had the game in the bag,” said the player, whose team led 2-0 after 27 minutes via goals from Luis Henriquez and Roman Torres. “After the game, some of us felt like we’d thrown it all away already, but the more experienced players and the gaffer made us realise that this [the Hexagonal] is only just beginning. That was a real relief.”
Sanchez’s mood swiftly moved from those feelings of relief to optimism regarding Panama’s chances of reaching Brazil 2014: “The gaffer has assembled a good team. He’s given us all confidence and I think that we’ll bounce back. We’ll pick up points at home and try to win our away games too.”
Next up, however, is a taxing visit to Kingston, where Panama are set to face a Jamaica side on a high after grabbing a surprise draw in Mexico’s always daunting Estadio Azteca. “It’ll be a very tough game,” warned Sanchez. “They’re a very physical team and they put in a great performance against Mexico, they were really well set up out on the pitch. I know it won’t be easy, but I’ve got a lot of faith in my team-mates.”
As the interview concluded, Sanchez, who describes himself as “a very skilful, intelligent player who enjoys playing on either flank or even as a No10”, did not shy away from revealing his ambitious career goals for the short to medium-term.
“I’d love to end up in Europe,” he said. “I feel like [by signing for DC United] I’ve now made the first step towards that, and I want to keep moving forward. And well, of course, making it to the World Cup in Brazil is my greatest dream. I’ll do everything in my power to make it happen.”