While there was unilateral support for Panama’s first-ever World Cup game, a 3-0 loss to Belgium, there’s some dissension in the ranks as Los Canaleros prepares for their second match in Group G on Sunday.
Their opponent is England.
Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips is English.
You can see where this is going.
“I don’t want Amir and Fidel to have bad games, but they’ve got to lose that one. I’m sorry,” Wright-Phillips told Pro Soccer USA. “They’re my boys, but they’ve got to lose. Either way, I benefit because England will go through and I’ll get my two good players back into my team.”
Panama currently sit at the bottom of the group on goal differential. An England win, coupled with a Belgium victory over Tunisia, would clinch spots in the knockout round for both of the pre-tournament favorites in Group G.
Although Panama were on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline on Monday, Murillo and Escobar — who were both in the starting XI — impressed in 90-minute performances, especially to Marsch.
While not only holding their own against a Red Devils attack that included Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United) and Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), they also had Panama’s only two shots on frame.
“I thought they both held up really well. I thought Fidel was fantastic. Fidel dealt with transition moments, he dealt with aerial duels, he passed very well out of the back, tactically part of the line in a really good way,” Marsch said. “Amir showed his ease and quality at now making plays with the ball, but also his ability to defend certain moments and the edge that he has. Obviously we all watched the play where he almost was able to create a big chance and a goal and what a moment that would have been.”
Despite their first appearance on the world stage, both Murillo and Escobar — the youngest players among Panama’s defenders — looked comfortable in their skin.
That didn’t surprise Wright-Phillips.
“That’s them,” Wright-Phillips said. “When they first came, we got it wrong. We thought they weren’t trying hard, but they’re just really relaxed and comfortable in their ability. It wasn’t a surprise for me to see them not nervous and just playing their game because I think that’s just how they are.”
So Wright-Phillips would like to see another solid outing from Murillo and Escobar with his preference being a repeat of the final score from Panama’s first match.
“It’s good to see guys you know playing on the biggest stage,” Wright-Phillips said. “It’s nice. I’m happy for them. They’ve done well individually and hopefully they can carry on.”