Panama drawn into World Cup Group G with Belgium and England

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Los Caneleros will have a difficult debut, being grouped with the Red Devils and the Three Lions while facing long journeys throughout Russia

Panama will make its debut at the World Cup in Group G alongside Belgium and England.

Los Caneleros locked up the third position in CONCACAF qualification in October and are hoping to leave Russia not only having made the first-ever appearance but also having locked up the country's first-ever World Cup win.

To do that, they'll need good performances in what looks to be a difficult group. Panama starts the World Cup in Sochi against Belgium before traveling to Nizhny Novgorod to meet England and closing out the group stage by facing Tunisia in Saransk. The group requires a fair amount of travel thanks to the opening game in eastern city Sochi.

Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez will bring an experienced team to Russia, albeit one without any World Cup experience. Center backs Felipe Torres and Roman Torres, goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, midfielders Gabriel Gomez and Armando Cooper, and forwards Blas Perez and Luis Tejeda all are 30 or older. Those seven players also make up Panama's most-capped players all-time for the nation that historically has been more focused on the baseball diamond than the soccer field.

There is some younger blood Panama can rely on with 20-year-old forward Ismael Diaz and 21-year-old fullback Michael Murillo both pushing to be included on Gomez's final roster. The hallmark of the team, though, will be the veterans experiencing the spectacle of the World Cup for the first time. 

Those players will be key against a Belgium team that also can point to plenty of experience and an England squad that will be eager to erase memories of finishing at the bottom of its group at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

Group G

They won't simply be happy to be there - but they will be pleased to be part of the summer showcase.

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"It’s been exciting with the country united and everybody supporting the national team. It’s become the pride of the country, so there’s a party in Panama," Gomez told  Caracol  ahead of the draw.

Whether the fans are happy with the draw or not, Panama is headed to Russia and now knows the teams it will face. For now, the party can continue.

 

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