- Panama and Argentina face off over two legs for a berth at France 2019
- Central Americans chasing maiden appearance at FIFA Women’s World Cup
- Bailey: “You’ll see a very strong Panama”
Though still just 17, Yenith Bailey is already forging an impressive reputation in world football. During the CONCACAF qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ the Panamanian keeper produced some dazzling displays en route to picking up the tournament’s Golden Glove.
“I didn’t expect to win it. It was great, because it was the first qualifying event I played in, so to win the Golden Glove... My heart was pounding. It was one of my targets, but I can give so much more, and I will,” the player said.
Over the course of the 13-day qualifying competition, Bailey was fundamental to Panama securing fourth place and an intercontinental play-off spot against Argentina, after finishing ahead of the likes of Mexico and Costa Rica.
“Beating Mexico was a goal we set ourselves from the beginning. Fortunately, it worked out well and we got the victory. During the game itself, our coach adjusted some things we were lacking, and I think that helped us beat them. Many people told us that it’d be hard, but I think we silenced a lot of people with our effort and sacrifice,” said Bailey of the game in which Las Canaleras ended Mexico’s hopes and advanced to the semi-finals.
Painful lessons learned
But there was to be no fairy-tale finish to the tournament or automatic qualification for their first Women’s World Cup. In the semi-finals they crashed to a heavy defeat against Canada and then missed out on the last direct berth for France after a painful penalty shootout loss to Jamaica. That said, Bailey insists the team have learned valuable lessons from the experience.
“We had that ticket within our grasp, so losing it was very painful – like having a toy wrenched from your hands as a child," she reflected. "That game against Jamaica ended all square and went to penalties, but we never stopped believing. And while things didn’t go our way on that occasion, there’s still one spot up for grabs, so we’re going to keep on striving to take that final step.”
While her outstanding performances have made her one of the standard-bearers of the side, earning rave reviews, Bailey is keeping her feet firmly on the ground:
“A lot has been said about my performances, but there’s more to come. I have a long road to travel, so people will see a lot more saves from me. I’m dealing well with all the compliments being paid to me, as many people are talking about me on social networks and saying nice things. I still cannot believe it.”
The upcoming intercontinental play-off against Argentina represents one final throw of the dice for Panama.
“We can iron out the mistakes that the coaching staff and we ourselves have noticed. You’re going to see a stronger Panama. It won’t be easy for them to beat or draw with us, as we want the victory. I can’t say that we’re going to qualify because I don’t know with certainty what the future holds, but I am confident that we’re capable of doing it.”
Estadio Julio Humberto Grondona, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Thursday 8 November, 19:00 local time
Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City, Panama
Tuesday 13 November, 20:00 local time