SARANSK, Russia (Reuters) - World Cup debutants Panama fly home licking their wounds as one of only two nations to lose all three games, plus the team with the most goals conceded and joint fewest scored.
Yet their proud coach Hernan Gomez reacted angrily to a suggestion they were the “worst team” in Russia, insisting 55th-ranked Panama had competed valiantly despite big disadvantages.
“That is a complete lack of respect,” he told a journalist who asked the question first at a news conference minutes after Panama’s third and final defeat to Tunisia 2-1 on Thursday.
“You shouldn’t call us the worst team. We are the youngest team with most difficulties. How many pitches do we have? What kind of infrastructure do we have? ... Look at the history of the other countries here ... You should respect our team more.”
After heavy 3-0 and 6-1 losses to Belgium and England respectively, Panama took the lead against Tunisia in Saransk, raising the prospect of a first ever World Cup finals win.
Yet it was not to be as the North Africans came back in the second half to score twice and take third spot in Group G in a match purely for pride given both teams were already eliminated.
“We were much more level in this match than in others,” said Gomez, who insists Panama have learned massively from the experience in Russia and will have a bright future.
Asked about his personal future, the Colombian coach said he had been very happy leading Panama but did have other offers and would take his time to consider them.
“Now, I am quite tired as you will understand,” he said.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly and Andrew Cawthorne; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne