Panama find a historic silver lining
Felipe Baloy, when nobody expected it, scored Panama's maiden World Cup goal
The 37-year-old became the fourth-oldest scorer in the competition's history
Baloy tells FIFA why Panama have a bright future
By Samuel McCollin with Panama
Panama were full of hope and belief ahead of their second outing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. As it turned out, however, things did not go to plan against an England team who demonstrated the difference in class between the two sides.
The thumping 6-1 win took both the Three Lions and Belgium into the knockout phase and condemned Los Canaleros to an early exit, though the Central Americans did have something to celebrate: their first ever World Cup goal.
The history maker It was largely one-way traffic for 78 minutes, as an unstoppable England side surged into a 6-0 lead, thanks in no small part to Harry Kane's hat-trick. It was then that 37-year-old Panama defender Felipe Baloy made an incursion in the opposition box. Having come on just nine minutes earlier and pulled on the captain’s armband, he latched on to Ricardo Avila’s fine free-kick and slid the ball home, putting a smile on his compatriots’ faces despite the disappointing scoreline.
The lowdown on Felipe Baloy
Made his international debut in 2001
Won his 101st cap for Panama against England
Scored his fourth goal for his country
Has played for clubs in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, among other countries
Currently plays in the Guatemalan league
“It’s great to have scored at the World Cup,” Baloy told FIFA afterwards. Though delighted to have made a deserved piece of history, the veteran defender, who has announced that he will be retiring after the World Cup, was keen to give credit to the young Avila for his part in the goal: “He’s the type of young player we need to keep developing. They’re young players with a lot of talent.”
When Baloy made his full international debut back in February 2001, Panama had a long way to travel to get to where they are now: in Russia 2018 with a squad featuring a clutch of young players with very bright futures ahead of them. Forming part of their exciting new breed are the likes of Avila, Fidel Escobar, Harold Cummings, Michael Murillo, and Eric Davis.
They are all an integral part of Panama’s future. “When the coach [Hernan Dario Gomez] said we were coming here to learn, that is exactly what he meant,” explained Baloy. “We were coming up against world-class teams with great players.”
And the seasoned campaigner knows very well what Panama have to do if they are to compete with the big guns: “We have to work hard with these players, and not just physically and tactically but mentally too.”
Before that process takes place, however, Baloy and Panama have one more match remaining at their first World Cup adventure. And having scored their maiden goal, they have their sights set on a second landmark against Tunisia on 28 June.
“We’ll be working hard to get Panama’s first World Cup win,” said the leader of the Panamanian pack.
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