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Thursday, August 21 2014 @ 03:58 PM EDT

Panama Trying To Qualify For 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil

Sports SectionBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - If you're a fan of the FIFA World Cup then you probably know the Republic of Panama is on the dubious list of teams that have has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup. This time around, they hope to change that. Panama has been trying to get into the World Cup since 1978 and the national team has participated in the qualification and elimination tournaments eight times, without success. You might want to start paying attention to Panama's soccer schedule this month.

A First Round Bye: Thanks to their international FIFA ranking, Panama was granted a bye in the first round. Ten teams participated in the first round: Belize, Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, Aruba, U.S. Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and Montserrat. Of those, Belize, the Dominican Republic, US Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, and the Bahamas survived, while Montserrat, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Aruba, and the Turks and Caicos Islands were eliminated. The first round served to reduce the total field from 35 to 30. And then later, after surviving the first round, the Bahamas dropped out.

Panama Playing in Second Round: So far Panama has only played one game in the second round of qualifying. On 6 September 2011 Panama beat Nicaragua on the road, 2-1 - giving them one win and three points in head to head competition. Today the Panama men's national team is in Dominica, playing a game that starts at 6:00 pm EST (or 5:00 pm here in Panama). This is the second game Panama is playing as part of the second round of qualifying within the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). After today's game, next week on Tuesday, 11 October 2011, Nicaragua travels to Panama to play in the Rommel Fernández Gutiérrez stadium in Panama City. After these two games Panama will have only one more game to play in the second round, against Dominica at home (here in Panama) on 15 November 2011. There are only three teams in Group C with Panama because the Bahamas withdrew from the competition on 19 August 2011, and they were not replaced.

24 Teams Playing, Six Waiting With Bye's: There are 24 teams playing in this second round of eliminations.

  • Group A - El Salvador, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands
  • Group B - Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda, Barbados
  • Group C - Nicaragua, Panama, Dominica
  • Group D - Canada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia
  • Group E - Guatemala, Belize, St. Vincent / Grenadines, Grenada
  • Group F - Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, Curaçao, US Virgin Islands.

Do or Die: Of these 24 teams, only six will advance to the third round. There are six groups, and only the winners of each group advances. So, in order to survive, Panama has to win Group C in the second round. If Panama beats the tiny Caribbean island nation of Dominica today in their first head to head match, and then beats Nicaragua again next Tuesday, they will have nine points and be leading Group C undefeated. Both Panama and Nicaragua avoided having to play in the first round, but Dominica made it through the first round by defeating Anguilla, 2-0 and 6-0.

This Is How You Do It: Panama has never been to the FIFA World Cup, and these qualification tournaments are how they can get there. In 2008, for example, Panama beat El Salvador at home 1-0, but then lost on the road 1-3, and was eliminated in the second round, thus ending the dream of participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Panama came close when trying to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Panama made it all the way to the fourth round, but then got spanked and humiliated. In ten games they were only able to get no wins, two draws, and eight losses, finishing in last place out of six teams, only scoring four goals in ten games, while giving up 21 goals against. The United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica advanced cleanly, while Trinidad and Tobago beat Bahrain, squeaking in to the big dance as the fourth team from the CONCACAF to qualify.

Six Teams Got Bye's To The Third Round: Based on their international FIFA rankings, Jamaica, the United States, Costa Rica, Mexico, Cuba, and Honduras were all given second round bye's and they start directly in the third round. Panama just missed the bye - ranked 68th in the world compared to Cuba at 64. Anyway, these six teams are waiting on the sidelines to see which six teams will survive the second round, to join them in the third.

Looking Good For Third Round: The third round games will be played from 8 June to 16 October 2012. Assuming Panama can win their next two games and virtually assure their advancement to the third round of play, they have a good chance of surviving the third round as well. As the winners of Group C, they would be placed in Group C of the third round together with Cuba, Honduras, and the winner of Group D in the second round, right now being led by Canada with two wins and six points. This means they dodge some of the toughest teams in the CONCACAF - United States and Jamaica (Group A) as well as Mexico and Costa Rica (Group B). Twelve teams will enter the third round, six will be eliminated, and six - the winners of each group and the runners-up, will go to the fourth round. This is usually where Panama gets knocked out. If they can't beat the likes of Cuba, Honduras, and Canada - then they really don't deserve to be in the FIFA World Cup anyway.

Fourth Round: The fourth round will see the 3 group winners and 3 runners-up from the third round compete in a single group. The top three teams will qualify directly for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals, while the fourth-placed team will enter the intercontinental play-offs. Whoever ends up in fourth place after the fourth round will have to play the winner of the Oceania Football Confederation - comprised of teams like New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, and American Samoa.

Anyway, First Things First: It's still very early on the road to qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Panama has to play just four games at this stage, and if they can win three of them for nine points, that will guarantee their advance to the third round. I don't know if you care about the Panamanian national men's soccer team or not, but at least now you will have a primer to understand what's going on, when you hear about these games on the news this week.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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