SARANSK, Russia (AP) — Panama lost all three of its matches in its World Cup debut and then its coach took offense when it was suggested that the team was the worst at the tournament.
The Central American team closed out its time in Russia with a 2-1 loss to Tunisia on Thursday. Egypt was the only other team to lose all three of its games.
But Panama’s minus-nine goal difference was the worst at a World Cup among teams with zero points since North Korea’s minus-11 in 2010.
When asked why some were calling his team the worst at this World Cup, Panama coach Hernan Gomez got angry.
“Maybe we were last, but are we really the worst team?” Gomez said. “I think you should compare everything, the backdrops. We are the newest team and we ran into the most difficult schedule.”
Primarily known as a country for producing baseball players and boxers, soccer is only just catching on in Panama. Gomez said that Panama lacks soccer fields, strong club competitions and the infrastructure to compete at the top level at the moment.
“Please don’t call us the worst team,” he said. “We are not the worst team. We are a team that is learning and growing. I think you need to respect our team much more. You cannot call us the worst team. That is a lack of respect.”
Panama, which had the fifth-oldest team at the tournament by average age, lost 3-0 to Belgium and 6-1 to England in their first two matches in World Cup history. On Monday, the Canaleros opened the scoring against Tunisia, but later conceded their 10th and 11th goals in the tournament.
Panama scored only twice in Russia, but their fans celebrated both goals as if they had won a match. Panama’s win on the last day of qualifying helped keep the U.S. national team out of the World Cup.
“Maybe if we were look at the history and the backdrop of other countries, we can’t really be called the worst, worst team,” Gomez said. “I think you need to compare everything, not only compare the scores.
“You need to compare the backdrop, the history …. Bear that all In mind before you call us the worst team.”